Black Actor Alleges 'Nationwide Pattern' of Profiling in 2nd Suit Against Macy's

Rob Brown of "Treme" pursues federal class-action suit against retailer, NYPD.

ByABC News
November 14, 2013, 8:21 AM
"Treme" actor Rob Brown is pursuing a class-action lawsuit against Macy's and the NYPD for alleged racial profiling.
"Treme" actor Rob Brown is pursuing a class-action lawsuit against Macy's and the NYPD for alleged racial profiling.

Nov. 14, 2013 — -- Actor Rob Brown has filed another lawsuit against Macy's and the New York Police Department, this time in federal court with the intent to build his case into a class action.

Brown, who stars as character Delmond Lambreaux in HBO's "Treme," says he was the victim of racial profiling in a Macy's store and was wrongly accused of shoplifting and using a fake credit card because of his race.

Brown is an African-American who was raised in Brooklyn, N.Y.

READ: Macy's Says Its Employees Not Involved in 'Shop and Frisk' Allegations

"Our complaint against Macy's alleges a nationwide pattern in stopping and detaining alleged shoplifters based on the color of their skin in violation of civil rights statutes," Brown's attorney Douglas Wigdor said of the complaint filed on Wednesday.

Also filed Wednesday was a separate complaint against the New York Police Department. Brown withdrew his lawsuit filed in state court before filing the federal complaints.

"The New York City Police Department is condoning the behavior of the retail stores, not just Macy's but other high-end department stores, arresting shoppers based on the recommendation of private security and not doing any appropriate due diligence and appropriate checking to make sure there's probable cause," Wigdor said.

The NYPD referred all questions to the city's Law Department, which said in a statement, "We are awaiting a formal copy of the lawsuit and will review the claims once we receive it."

READ: Barneys New York Complaints Increasing, Lawyer Says

Brown, 29, alleges that he was "paraded" through the Manhattan store in handcuffs in June after he purchased a $1,350 watch for his mom, according to the first lawsuit that he filed in state court last month.

"I believe that I was profiled," Brown said during a news conference Oct. 25.

Brown's lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary damages.

Brown alleges that three undercover police officers or detectives detained him after he made a high-price purchase on a credit card, according to court documents.

Other suits mentioned in Brown's lawsuit were filed in Brooklyn, Kentwood, Mich., Aventura, Fla., Woodbridge, Va., and Garden City, L.I.

Although he said he showed them his I.D. to prove that the credit card was his, they initially accused him of fraud before he was "paraded while handcuffed" through the store.

Macy's said the store's "personnel were not involved" in the incident and that the store had provided a small room to police officers at their request.

A spokesman for Macy's today said he couldn't comment on pending litigation. But the company reiterated its previous statements, saying, "Macy's does not tolerate discrimination of any kind, including racial profiling."

Brown said he was detained while handcuffed for about an hour and no charges were brought against him, according to his lawsuits.

Besides his role as a New Orleans jazz musician in "Treme," Brown also portrayed football legend Ernie Davis in the 2008 film "The Express."

As for the lawsuit, similar accusations were leveled last month against luxury retailer Barneys. Trayon Christian and Kayla Phillips said they were detained by police after making expensive purchases at Barneys New York. Both Christian and Phillips are black.

"We want to reinforce that Barneys New York has zero tolerance for any form of discrimination," Barneys CEO Mark Lee said in the statement last month. "We are a strong proponent of equal rights and equal treatment for all human beings."