Buying an expensive designer belt is a crime if you're a black man, at least that's what college student Trayon Christian has learned. The 19-year-old engineering student from Queens, New York was wrongly arrested for credit card fraud after purchasing a USD349 Ferragamo belt at the high-end department store Barneys.
Mr Christian has long coveted the pricey belt that he had seen being worn by many of his favourite celebrities. And on April 29, after the pay check he earned from his part-time job was deposited directly into his bank account, he went straight to Barneys to purchase the accessory.
"It was a quick trip. I gave them my debit card, I signed my name," he recounted to the New York Daily News.
And when asked by the store's clerk, he showed his state ID.
The clerk didn't react during the whole process, but when the teen left and walked about a block from the store, he was stopped by two undercover New York Police Department detectives. He was asked to show his ID and show the content of his bag. He was also asked if he worked and where.
"They said my card wasn't real, it was fake. They said someone at Barneys called to report it," Mr Christian, who was 18 when the incident occurred, said.
"The detectives were asking me, 'How could you afford a belt like this? Where did you get the money from?"
The detectives then handcuffed him and took him to a police station, where he was detained in a holding cell. He was released after about two hours with his debit card, his purchased belt, and an apology from the police.
An NYPD spokeswoman confirmed that Mr Christian was detained, but only for less than an hour after they have determined that his card was authentic.
Mr Christian was nervous and scared during his arrest, but he got angry when he reached his home.
"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 continued to NY Daily News. "It's cruel. It's racist."
He is now suing the NYPD and Barneys for racial profiling and false arrest after the incident caused him "great physical and mental distress and humiliation." He is seeking unspecified damages.
The upscale department store has released a statement regarding the incident on Wednesday:
"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."
Meanwhile, another African American shopper is claiming that she has suffered the same fate as Mr Christian.
Kayla Phillips told NY Daily News that she was accused of credit card fraud after buying a USD2500 Céline bag from the same department store.
The 21-year-old nursing student from Brooklyn paid for the orange suede bag with money she got from her tax return on February 28. She used her debit card for her purchase, and the exchange happened without incident. However, when she left and reached the subway station, three male and one female cops "attacked me and pushed me against a wall, and the other two appeared in front of me, blocking the turnstile."
She said that the cops interrogated her, demanding to see her ID. Like Christian, she was also taken to the precinct stationhouse, but was released with no charges.
Ms Phillips has filed a $5 million notice of claim with the city of her intention to sue the police department.
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