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Second black teen says she was racially profiled by Barneys

Oct. 24, 2013 at 9:41 AM  |  Updated Oct. 24, 2013 at 10:08 AM   |   Comments

NEW YORK, Oct. 24 (UPI) -- Another young black customer at tony Barneys in New York said she was racially profiled by clerks after she made an expensive purchase.

Brooklyn resident Kayla Phillips, 21, said the report of black teen being detained after buying a $350 designer belt was similar to her encounter with police in February when she bought a $2,500 Celine handbag, the New York Post reported Wednesday.

"As I was walking into the train station, four undercover police officers attacked me," Phillips told the Post.

"They asked me why I used a debit card and why it didn't have my name on it," she said of her temporary card.

Phillips called her mom, who told the Post police officers asked her daughter where she got the money to buy the expensive bag.

Her mother, Wendy Straker, told the Post the questions indicated to her the police were talking to a Barneys clerk who provided them information about her daughter's purchase.

When Phillips showed police her identification and her just arrived debit card, they let her go.

In the other incident, a black teenager sued Barneys and New York City police for allegedly racially profiling him for credit card fraud after he bought a $349 belt.

The upscale clothier denied wrongdoing and the New York Police Department disputed at least one of the lawsuit's allegations.

Trayon Christian, 19, an engineering student at New York City College of Technology, told the New York Daily News he was targeted at Barneys New York's flagship store and police detained him because they didn't believe a young black man could legitimately afford an expensive belt.

Christian told the newspaper he went to Barneys April 29 to buy a Salvatore Ferragamo belt.

"I gave them my debit card, I signed my name," he said,

The suit said he showed his state photo ID after after the clerk requested it then left the store.

About a block away, two undercover detectives stopped him, the lawsuit alleged.

"They said my card wasn't real. It was fake. They said someone at Barneys called to report it," Christian told the newspaper.

The detectives asked for identification and to see inside his bag, he said.

They also asked if he worked, and where.

"I showed them my school ID and my driver's license," Christian told the newspaper.

"I kept thinking, 'Why is this happening to me?'" he said.

"The detectives were asking me: 'How could you afford a belt like this? Where did you get this money from?'" he said.

The detectives handcuffed him and took him to a local police station, he said.

Police detained him in a holding cell for about 2 hours, the lawsuit alleges.

When they released him, they apologized, Christian told the newspaper.

Police spokeswoman Inspector Kim Royster said police held Christian "for approximately 42 minutes," not 2 hours, "and as soon as we determined that the card was authentic, he was immediately released."

He was never charged, said his attorney, Michael Palillo.

"He's never been arrested. His only crime was being a young black guy buying a $300 belt," the lawyer told the News.

The police questioning and detainment caused Christian "great physical and mental distress and humiliation," the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages from Barneys and the police department.

Barneys posted a statement on Facebook Wednesday saying it "typically does not comment on pending litigation. [But] 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," the statement said.

Christian told the News he returned the belt to Barneys a few days after the incident and got his money back.

"I'm not shopping there again," he said. "It's cruel. It's racist."

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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