NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – An engineering student has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the NYPD and Barneys New York after he claims he was racially profiled while shopping at the Madison Avenue store.
City College of Technology student Trayon Christian, 19, said the store and police targeted him because they didn’t think he could afford a $300 Ferragamo belt.
Christian said he had just been paid from his work-study job when he went to Barneys to purchase the belt back in April.
After buying the belt using his Chase debit card, Christian’s attorney Michael Palillo said he was stopped less than a block from the store by undercover NYPD detectives.
Palillo said the officers told Christian they had received a call from Barneys telling them that the debit card he used to buy the belt was fraudulent.
“They remove him from the sidewalk and basically move him to the side of a building where they say they’re going to call up Chase and one of the officers, I understand, asks him ‘how can you afford such a belt?’” Palillo told 1010 WINS’ Juliet Papa.
Palillo said Christian was then handcuffed and taken to a police precinct where he was held for two hours. He was released after his bank verified his account and debit card.
“He was profiled, he was racially profiled,” Palillo said. “I truly feel that if he wasn’t a young black man, this never would have happened.”
Christian, who later returned the belt to the store, said the incident was embarrassing and that the experience has changed him.
“It makes me look at stuff very different based on my race,” he told 1010 WINS’ Al Jones.
As WCBS 880′s Marla Diamond reported, Christian is suing Barneys and the NYPD for racial discrimination, saying the incident has caused him great physical and mental distress.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages. Christian said he hopes something good will come out of it.
“I hope Barneys’ policies change and the cops,” he said.
A Barneys New York spokesperson issued a statement that said:
“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.”
The NYPD had no comment.
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