Video Shows A 14-Year-Old Black Teen Wrongfully Accused Of Stealing A Woman's iPhone
"Are you kidding me? You think there's only one iPhone made in the world?"
Grammy-winning jazz musician Keyon Harrold, who has played with artists including Beyoncé, Jay Z, and Common, had just come downstairs for Boxing Day brunch at the Arlo SoHo hotel in New York City with his 14-year-old son, when a woman accused the teen of stealing her phone.
"This is my phone," Keyon Harrold Jr. says in a now-viral video recorded by his father, who tells him that he doesn't need to explain himself to this random woman. Both Harrold and his son are Black.
"Take the case off. That's mine. Literally, get it back," the unidentified woman in a mask demands of a hotel manager.
"Are you kidding me? You think there's only one iPhone made in the world?" Harrold, an acclaimed trumpeter, can be heard saying.
The manager demands the teen show him the phone, as his father points out that they had just gotten off the elevator when the woman started accusing them.
"He has my phone! Show me the proof! He's not leaving," the woman yells.
"What, you see two Black people—" Harrold says, before the woman interjects, "No, I'm not letting him get away with my phone."
She then lunges at them and falls to the ground.
"This incident went on for five more minutes, me protecting my son from this lunatic," Harrold wrote in posting the video to Instagram. "She scratched me; she Tackled and grabbed him. He is a child!!!"
Harrold Jr.'s parents — his mother Katty Rodriguez is also a successful musician, who has worked as a saxophonist for Beyoncé for over a decade — believe the treatment of their son was a clear case of racial profiling.
"The most painful feeling today as a parent was to feel helpless in protecting my child against racial hatred," Rodriguez wrote on Instagram.
The viral hotel video is reminiscent of other incidents where Black people have had authorities unfairly called on them or falsely accused of crimes, such as when a white woman called police on a bird watcher in Central Park after he asked her to put her dog on a leash.
"I am furious!!! We see this crap happening all the time, but it hits different when it hits home!!!" Harrold said on Instagram. "I typically try to keep things positive, but nothing about this video is positive."
Harrold said the woman, who is unidentified, had been a prior hotel guest but had checked out days earlier, but hotel staff supported the woman and not him and his son.
"Now watch as the manager advocates for the lady who is not even a hotel guest, insisting and attempting to use his managerial authority to force my son to show his phone to this random lady," wrote Harrold. "He actually empowered her!!! He didn't even consider the fact we were actually the guests! Now think about the trauma that my son now has to carry, only coming downstairs to have [boxing] day brunch with his dad."
Rodriguez also said she was deeply frustrated by the hotel's response.
"I expect this from the Karen’s in Amerikka but not from hospitality professionals!!!!! Your job is to be hospitable to all!" she wrote on Instagram.
Arlo Hotels did not respond to a request for comment from BuzzFeed News.
“We’re deeply disheartened about the recent incident of baseless accusation, prejudice and assault against an innocent guest of Arlo hotel,” the hotel said.
Harrold said that shortly after the woman's false accusations, an Uber driver returned the iPhone that she had left in the car, and that neither the woman nor the hotel apologized.
However, the family did report the incident to police, and a spokesperson for the NYPD confirmed to BuzzFeed News that a harassment complaint had been filed. The Manhattan District Attorney's office confirmed through a spokesperson that DA Cy Vance is "thoroughly investigating" the incident.
Correction: Keyon Harrold Jr.'s name was misspelled in an earlier version of this post.