Family sues after racists remarks, unlawful imprisonment by owner at Monroe County apple orchard

Owner Steve Elzinga issued an apology but is now facing a civil lawsuit

MONROE COUNTY, Mich. – The family who found themselves the targets of racism at a Monroe County apple orchard want the owner to pay a price for accusing them of stealing and trying to detain them.

The disturbing incident which occurred last week was captured on camera at Erie Orchard.

Owner Steve Elzinga issued an apology but is now facing a civil lawsuit.

The lawsuit is massive as the family says they are seeking compensation for therapy for their daughters, whom Elzinga detained.

It is asking for training for the owner and employees, and the family hopes no one ever is treated in that manner again.

Elzinga is under a criminal investigation conducted by the Monroe County sheriff’s office and now a brand new civil lawsuit by the target of his racist rant and his actions from Aug. 13.

A family trip to Erie Orchards and Cider Mill became a nightmare for Joe Mahmoud, his wife, and his three little girls.

Elzinga called Mahmoud a thief, and he was caught on camera saying, “Every Muslim that comes in here steals from me.”

Mahmoud says an employee told his little girls they could pick fallen peaches.

Elzinga wanted $58 from the family, searched Mahmoud’s truck and held the family there, claiming police were on their way.

The lawsuit states that Elzinga called the police, then canceled his call, but still tried to hold the family there.

The lawsuit also accuses Elzinga of unlawful imprisonment. The orchard owner has put an apology on its website.

Local 4 asked to talk to the owner but was told they could not speak to us now.

About the Authors:

Local 4 Defender Shawn Ley is an Emmy award-winning journalist who has been with Local 4 News for more than a decade.

Brandon Carr is a digital content producer for ClickOnDetroit and has been with WDIV Local 4 since November 2021. Brandon is the 2015 Solomon Kinloch Humanitarian award recipient for Community Service.