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Black teen accused of stealing $348 belt sues Barneys, NYPD

Posted at 6:27 PM, Oct 23, 2013
and last updated 2013-10-23 19:20:20-04

MANHATTAN (PIX11) – A 19-year-old Queens teen is taking the NYPD and one of the city’s most luxurious department stores to court over allegations of unlawful arrest as well as racial profiling.

“My client’s crime was being a young black male, that is all his crime was. He did nothing wrong,” said Michael Palillo the attorney representing 19-year-old Trayon Christian.

The incident is alleged to have taken place at Barneys department store back on April 29th of this year.  Christian, who was 18 at the time, had worked hard and saved enough money to purchase a $348 Ferragamo belt.  A fan of fashion, he made the purchase at the store with his Chase debit card. However once out of the store, his taste for a high-priced accessory got him pinched by the fashion police, who in this case were undercover NYPD detectives out of the 19th Precinct.

Belt

The 19-year-old, who is now suing Barneys and the NYPD, said he saved up to buy the $348 Ferragamo belt worn by one of his favorite rappers.

“Everything went well until he went outside, walked about a block, and two undercover police officers pulled him over basically up against the building and said to him, ‘We got a call from Barneys.  Barneys telling me that you have a fraudulent debit card from chase,” Palillo told PIX11 News on Wednesday afternoon.

Palillo admitted that the sale went through and the receipt had his client’s name on it.

So what was wrong?

“There was nothing wrong in the reality of the world. The only thing that was wrong, I don’t believe he looked like the type of person that should be shopping inside of Barneys.”

Racial profiling in the private sector is nothing new. There is the Dennys case involving Secret Service agents in the mid-90s and there is the Oprah Winfrey allegation at Hermes in Switzerland earlier this year.  Even President Obama alluded to it this past July after the Trayvon Martin verdict, “There are very few African-American men who haven’t had the experience of being followed in a department store — that includes me.”

As to whether or not Barneys or the NYPD has apologized?

Precinct

The Queens teen was taken to the 19th Precinct where he was grilled over the belt that Barneys employees believed he stole.

“Very few people step up to the line and say yes I am at fault. I am sorry. Those are the hardest words for people to say I did it, I’m sorry,” said Palillo.

Especially in this case, when there are legal ramifications involved.

As for the $348 Ferregamo belt?

Palillo said that his client returned it immediately, adding, “He wants nothing to do with Barneys ever again in his life.”

The NYPD informed PIX11 News that the incident is under internal review.

The department store did offer up the following statement through a spokesperson, “Barneys New York typically does not comment on pending litigation.  In this instance, we feel compelled to note that after carefully reviewing the incident of last April, it is clear that no employee of Barneys New York was involved in the pursuit of any action with the individual other than the sale. Barneys New York has zero tolerance for any form of discrimination and we stand by our long history in support of all human rights.”