Black actor accuses Macy’s of racist detention
NEW YORK — A black actor on the HBO drama series “Treme” said Friday he was stopped by police because of his race while shopping at Macy’s — the third discrimination allegation made this week by a black shopper against a department store.
Robert Brown, who sued Macy’s in state Supreme Court in Manhattan, said in his lawsuit he was detained by police at the flagship Herald Square store on June 8 after employees contacted authorities about possible credit card fraud.
He said he was “paraded while handcuffed” through the store to a holding cell, where he was kept for nearly an hour while officers grilled him and searched his bag. He eventually was released without charges.
The lawsuit, filed Thursday, said it was over sunglasses, but Brown said at a news conference Friday it was over a $1,300 Movado watch he had bought for his mother for her college graduation.
“I believe that I was profiled,” said Brown, 29, who appears in the movie “Don Jon.”
Brown’s lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary damages, but his lawyer John Elefterakis said, “This is about justice, not money.”
Macy’s didn’t comment on the litigation but said in a statement it was investigating.
The New York Police Department is accused in the lawsuit of violating Brown’s constitutional rights. The city’s Law Department said it would review the claims once it received a copy of the lawsuit.
Earlier this week, two Barneys New York customers, Trayon Christian and Kayla Phillips, who are black, said they were detained by police after making expensive purchases.
Police said they were already in the store when Christian was taken into custody and they were contacted by the store after Phillips used a temporary debit card.
The profiling accusations prompted an outcry from civil rights groups, with the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network threatening to picket the store. Sharpton said he planned to hold a Saturday news conference at which other shoppers who felt profiled would come forward.
Barneys said on Thursday it had retained a civil rights expert to lead a review of its policies and procedures and had reached out to community leaders to start a dialogue. The CEO of Barneys, Mark Lee, offered his “sincere regret and deepest apologies.”
In the lawsuit against Macy’s, Brown, who also acted in “Finding Forrester,” said he tried to show police officers his identification to prove his American Express card wasn’t a fake but was told it was phony. He said he had recently obtained a new Social Security Card and had a birth certificate, passport and license on him at the time.
Brown said the officers eventually cleared him and then one drove him to his mother’s graduation. He said he was coming forward because he didn’t want others to experience the same treatment.
Earlier this week, Christian sued Barneys, saying he was accused of fraud after using his debit card to buy a $349 Ferragamo belt in April. Phillips said in a notice of claim filed with the city that undercover officers detained her after she bought a $2,500 designer bag at Barneys in February.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said it’s standard practice for retailers to call police if they believe crimes have been committed.