Trayon Christian, a black engineering student at the NYC College of Technology, filed a lawsuit against the NYPD and luxury clothier Barneys for racial profiling Tuesday in Manhattan Supreme Court. After the 19-year-old bought a $350 Salvatore Ferragamo belt, he was arrested by police officers, who believed he couldn't afford the item.
Trayon Christian of Queens, N.Y. had saved up money after working a part-time job at his college to afford the pricey belt in April, he told NBC 4. The clerk asked to see his I.D. as he made the purchase, which is standard procedure, but after leaving the store, he was detained by police, who asked "how a young black man" could "afford to purchase such an expensive belt," according to the lawsuit.
"Why me? I guess because I'm a young black man, and you know, people do a credit card scam so they probably thought that I was one of them," Christian said. "They probably think that black people don't have money like that."
The Barneys clerk had called the police, according to Christian, and so he was arrested and taken to the precinct for fraud. There he showed them his I.D., receipt and debit card and was let go. Police did apologize for the incident, but "it wasn't a sincere 'sorry,'" Christian's lawyer, Michael Palillo, told The New York Post.
"His only crime was being a young black man," the attorney said. "This is an outrage. He committed no crime. He's a young black male who likes fashion."
Christian, who said he was inspired to buy the belt by rapper Juelz Santana, returned the belt to the store.
"I got my money back, I'm not shopping there again," he told The New York Daily News. "It's cruel. It's racist."
Barneys issued a statement via Facebook denying that their clerk called the police and claiming that their store "has zero tolerance for any form of discrimination."
This isn't the first incident Barneys New York has gotten into with minority shoppers. In February, Kayla Phillips, an African-American woman, purchased an orange suede $2,500 Celine bag with her Bank of America card. During the purchase, she remembered the clerk being on the phone briefly.
After about three blocks, four police officers stopped her and grilled her for about 20 minutes, demanding to see her debit card, her I.D., and how she could afford such an expensive bag. Phillips also plans to sue Barneys and the NYPD.