Jazz musician calls for charges against woman who falsely accused Black son of theft
Keyon Harrold is Grammy-winning trumpet player who has performed with Common.
A renowned jazz musician is calling for charges to be brought against a woman who he claims assaulted his teen son during an altercation Saturday in which she falsely accused the Black teen of stealing her iPhone.
Keyon Harrold, a Grammy-winning trumpet player who has performed with Common, Jay-Z and Rihanna, was with his 14-year-old son at the Arlo SoHo Hotel in New York City, where they were staying, when he says a white woman in the lobby approached his son to accuse him of stealing her phone. Harrold recorded video of part of the incident on his phone.
“We were basically targeted, and the lady from the video is screaming … erratically that my son somehow took her phone,” Harrold told ABC News.
In the video that Harrold recorded, the woman could be seen yelling at the teen and lunging at him. Harrold’s son could also be heard denying that he stole the phone. As the situation escalated, the woman fell on the ground.
Harrold claims that the woman scratched him and tackled his son. He called the incident “traumatic” for his son.
“First of all, he's asked me again and again, ‘Why me?’ He's asked his mother the same, ‘Why me?’” said Harrold. “I had to explain to my son the same, ‘It's not your fault. People do things. They act the way they act and sometimes it's just not you.’”
Harrold shared the video on Instagram Sunday. Commenters called the incident racial profiling and the latest in a string of filmed altercations involving Black men.
The woman from the video has not been identified and has not come forward yet.
In the video, a hotel manager could also be seen stepping in to try to resolve the situation. However, Harrold claims the manager sided with the woman, who was not a guest at the hotel at the time.
“I didn't have the opportunity to be believed, and neither did my son. We were guilty then proven innocent,” Harrold told ABC News.
In a post on Instagram following the video, Harrold said he was frustrated by the hotel chain’s handling of the incident. The hotel chain subsequently apologized to Harrold in an Instagram post, in which it also said it was investigating the incident further.
“We’re deeply disheartened about the recent incident of baseless accusation, prejudice and assault against an innocent guess of Arlo Hotel,” said the statement. “We want to apologize to Mr. Harrold and his son for this inexcusable experience.”
In response to the statement, Harrold said, “The hotel just went about their business after basically sweeping it under the rug with a ‘Sorry this happened to you.’”
ABC News confirmed that the New York Police Department filed a report of harassment related to the Saturday incident.
National civil rights attorney Ben Crump issued a statement Monday that he and the Harrold family urged the Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. to bring charges against the woman.
“As this year of racial awareness is drawing to a close, it’s deeply troubling that incidents like this one, in which a Black child is viewed as and treated like a criminal, continue to happen,” Crump said in a statement. “We strongly urge Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. to bring assault and battery charges against this woman to send the message that hateful, racially motivated behavior is unacceptable.”
The woman’s cell phone was reportedly found later on Saturday by an Uber driver, according to Crump’s website.
In Crump's statement, he also said that they are seeking a civil rights investigation into the Arlo Hotel for its implicit bias in its treatment of the situation Saturday.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio responded to the incident on Monday night calling it "plain and simple" racism in a tweet.
"It would be horrific at any age, but it's especially offensive it happened to a child," wrote de Blasio.
Harrold said he was glad he could be there for his son at that moment.
“I wonder what could happen if I wasn't there to protect my son,” said Harrold. “In 2020, we still have to deal with being wrongly accused for being Black.”