Trayon Christian was hoping for a little retail therapy during a visit to the flagship Barneys New York store in New York City. But an enjoyable shopping trip turned into unpleasant headache when he says Barneys staff and NYPD detectives racially profiled him after he purchased a designer belt.
The 19-year-old says he was singled out by Barneys New York staff when he used his debit card to buy a $349 Salvatore Ferragamo belt, ultimately leading to Christian being detained by police who didn't think he could afford the item, reports the New York Daily News. Christian has filed a lawsuit against Barneys and the NYPD. With outrage growing around the April 29, 2013, incident, here are eight things you need to know about Christian and the suit.
1. He Attends New York City College of Technology
Christian is currently a student at the New York City College of Technology. He studies engineering at the school and has a work-study job, the New York Daily News reports.
2. He Had Visited Barneys Before
The stylish teen says he had browsed in the luxury retailer before. But he had never purchased anything at the store before the April 29 incident.
3. The Clerk Didn't Question His ID Or Choice Of Payment For The Purchase
Christian told the Daily News that he showed the clerk his state ID and that the clerk did not react in any way when he signed for the purchase and exited the store.
4. NYPD Detectives Stopped Him About A Block From Barneys
Two male NYPD detectives stopped Christian saying his card had been reported as fake. “They said my card wasn’t real, it was fake. They said someone at Barneys called to report it,” Christian says. He then was asked to show his ID and let them search his bag. Christian showed his school ID and driver’s license, he says. But the undercover officers continued to question him. “The detectives were asking me, ‘How could you afford a belt like this? Where did you get this money from?’”
5. He Says He Was Detained For Two Hours
Christian says that the detectives then handcuffed him and took him to the 19th Precinct stationhouse. In his lawsuit, he details that he was detained for around two hours in a holding cell. When he was finally released, his debit card and newly purchased belt were returned. Christian also says the police offered an apology. But according to an NYPD spokeswoman Inspector Kim Royster, Christian was only detained for 42 minutes. She claims he was brought into the precinct at 7:04 p.m. and was released at 7:45 p.m.
6. He Returned The Belt
A few days after the incident, Christian says he returned his purchase to Barneys New York.
“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 says. “It’s cruel. It’s racist.”
7. His Mother Supports His Racial Profiling Claim
“Barneys said his card was stolen, they said he shouldn’t have that much money in his account,” his mother, 40-year-old Selena Christian, told the Daily News. “I am shocked. He’s a good kid.” She added that she thinks the incident occurred "because he's an African-American" and that the officers and Barney staff "shouldn't have done this."
8. He Is Suing For Unspecified Damages
The suit claims that Christian's "reputation and character were injured and he was embarrassed" as the result of him being "questioned, searched and handcuffed" publicly and the “great physical and mental distress and humiliation” of being detained in a police cell.
8. Barneys Released A Statement On The Incident
The following statement from a spokesperson for the company was posted to the Barneys New York Facebook account:
"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."