Black teen sues Barneys and NYPD for arrest over designer belt
Black teen sues over arrest after buying $350 designer belt
NBC 4 New York
Trayon Christian, a 19-year-old college student from Queens
A 19-year-old college student from Queens says he was handcuffed and locked in a jail cell after buying a $350 designer belt at Barneys on New York's Madison Avenue because he is "a young black man."
Trayon Christian told NBC 4 New York on Wednesday that he saved up from a part-time job for weeks to buy a Salvatore Ferragamo belt at Barneys.
When he went to the store to buy it in April, he says the checkout clerk asked to see his identification. After the sale went through and he left the store, he was approached by police about a block away, and asked "how a young black man such as himself could afford to purchase such an expensive belt," according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Manhattan Supreme Court.
Officers hauled Christian to the local precinct, where he showed police his identification, as well as his debit card and the receipt for the belt, the lawsuit says.
Police still believed Christian's identification was fake, and eventually called his bank, which verified it was his, according to the complaint. Christian, who has no prior arrests, was released.
He told NBC 4 New York that questions were racing through his mind while he went through the painful experience of being handcuffed and taken to a cell.
"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."
He later returned the belt to Barneys because he says he "didn't want to have nothing to do with it."
He is suing the city and the luxury department store for unspecified damages as a result of "great physical and mental distress and humiliation."
Christian's attorney, Michael Palillo, told the Post, "His only crime was being a young black man."
Barneys said in a statement Wednesday that none of its employees was involved in any action with Christian other than the sale, and added that the store "has zero tolerance for any form of discrimination."
Here is another story on it. Thanks for the link, Lizzie!
A black teenager is shopping for justice — claiming snooty Barneys staffers and New York City cops racially profiled him for credit card fraud after he bought a $349 belt.
Trayon Christian, 19, told the Daily News he filed a lawsuit after he was targeted by staffers at Barneys’ Madison Ave. flagship store and detained by police because they didn’t believe a young black man could possibly afford to buy such an expensive belt.
The fashion-forward teen, who lives with his mom in Corona, Queens, is studying engineering at the New York City College of Technology, where he had a work-study job.
Christian said his paycheck had just been direct deposited into his Chase bank account, so he went straight to Barneys on the afternoon of April 29 to buy the pricey Ferragamo belt with a silver buckle and a reversible black and white strap.
“I knew exactly what I wanted,” Christian said. He’d seen the belt on a lot of his favorite celebrities, including rapper Juelz Santana.
He said he’d browsed the ritzy rags at Barneys before but had never bought anything at the store.
“It was a quick trip. I gave them my debit card, I signed my name,” he said.
According to his lawsuit, the clerk asked Christian to show his ID, which he did.
“I showed my state ID,” he told The News.
After buying a designer belt at the flaship Barneys department store in New York, Trayon Christian was detained and then arrested by undercover cops who the teen says told him the card had to be fraudulent because he couldn't have afforded the Ferragamo accessory.
The clerk didn’t react as he signed for his purchase and left, he said.
But he got no more than a block from the store when two undercover NYPD detectives stopped him near E. 60th St., the lawsuit said.
“They said my card wasn’t real, it was fake. They said someone at Barneys called to report it,” said Christian.
The male detectives — whose names he never learned — asked to see ID and look in his bag, he said.
They also asked him if he worked, and where.
“I showed them my school ID and my driver’s license,” said Christian, who was 18 when the incident allegedly occurred.
“I kept thinking, ‘Why is this happening to me?’” he said.
“The detectives were asking me, ‘How could you afford a belt like this? Where did you get this money from?’” he said.
EXCLUSIVE PHOTO: Trayon Christian is suing Barneys and the NYPD for racial profiling and false arrest after the belt-buying incident that got him arrested and jailed for a short time.
He was handcuffed and taken to the 19th Precinct stationhouse, he said.
According to his lawsuit, he was detained in a holding cell for about two hours.
He was then released with his debit card, his belt and an apology from the police, Christian said.
A spokeswoman for the NYPD denied Christian was detained for two hours, saying he was brought into the precinct at 7:04 p.m. and was allowed to leave at 7:45 p.m.
“Mr. Christian was held in police custody for approximately 42 minutes and as soon as we determined that the card was authentic, he was immediately released,” said Inspector Kim Royster.
He was never charged, according to his attorney.
“I was nervous the whole time, but not really scared because I knew I had done nothing wrong,” said the teen.
After he got home, he got angry.
“I brought the belt back to Barneys a few days later and returned it. I got my money back, I’m not shopping there again,” he said. “It’s cruel. It’s racist.”