Video Shows Keyon Harrold’s Son Falsely Accused of Theft in SoHo Hotel
On Saturday afternoon, Keyon Harrold, a prominent jazz musician, and his 14-year-old son walked into…
On Saturday afternoon, Keyon Harrold, a prominent jazz musician, and his 14-year-old son walked into the lobby of the Arlo, a boutique hotel in SoHo where they were staying, when they were accosted by a woman they had never seen before.
The woman falsely accused the teenager of taking her cellphone and demanded that he give it back. Tensions escalated, with the woman insisting that the teenager had the phone, yelling at him and eventually tackling him and trying to look in his pockets before they could be separated, Mr. Harrold said.
Mr. Harrold, who is Black, captured parts of the altercation in a cellphone video, which was shared widely on social media this weekend as another example of false accusations against Black people. It drew comparisons to an incident in May when a white woman called 911 to falsely claim that a Black bird-watcher in Central Park was threatening her life.
Mr. Harrold said in an interview on Sunday that the SoHo episode had left him “shellshocked.”
He said he believed that he and his son, Keyon Harrold Jr., may have been racially profiled, though he said he did not know the race of the woman.
“I wonder what would happen if it were different, if it were a Black woman and there was a white 14-year-old,” he said.
In Mr. Harrold’s video, the hotel manager can be seen identifying himself and asking the son to produce a cellphone, in an apparent attempt to verify the woman’s claim. But the manager had no reason to believe the woman, Mr. Harrold said.
“They assumed he was guilty,” Mr. Harrold said. “The management didn’t even question her as to why she would even think he had the phone.”
The woman has not been publicly identified. Both the police and the hotel declined to share a name, and Mr. Harrold said he did not know who she was or how to contact her.
She had previously been a guest at the hotel earlier in the week, Mr. Harrold said he had been told by the hotel.
The hotel also told Mr. Harrold that an Uber driver found her phone later in the day, and she picked it up from the hotel, Mr. Harrold said.
The hotel did not answer questions on Sunday about the woman. Arlo, which has two hotels in the city, advertises its SoHo location as a trendy destination with a rooftop bar and Hudson River views. Heated cabins in its courtyard can take guests “away to the country without ever leaving the city,” the hotel says on its website.
In a statement, the hotel apologized to Mr. Harrold and his son. While the hotel said the manager called the police to report the incident and hotel security had stepped in, “more could have been done to de-escalate the dispute.”
“We’re deeply disheartened about the recent incident of baseless accusation, prejudice and assault against an innocent guest of Arlo hotel,” the hotel said, adding that it was committed to “making sure this never happens again at any of our hotels.”
Police officials confirmed that they received a report of an incident at the hotel on Saturday and said they were investigating. The Manhattan district attorney’s office is also investigating the incident, a spokesman said Monday.
The episode at the hotel followed several recent instances where racist treatment of Black people has been caught on video and disseminated widely, including the Central Park incident in May, which occurred after the Black bird-watcher asked a white woman to leash her dog.
Mr. Harrold, who is from Ferguson, Mo., moved to New York City and began playing jazz professionally at the age of 19. He has performed with high-profile artists like Common, Snoop Dogg, Jay-Z, Beyoncé and Rihanna, and he appeared on a soundtrack for a jazz biopic about Miles Davis, “Miles Ahead,” that won a Grammy Award in 2017.
Mr. Harrold said he had been staying at the Arlo hotel since mid-December. He lives in Long Island City, Queens, but he said a change in setting helped spur his creativity. He said he and his son were planning on eating brunch when they encountered the woman at the hotel on Saturday.
He said the woman had scratched him as he struggled to keep her away from his son during the altercation. He said he worried what would have happened if he had not been there to protect his son.
“I’ve seen people be hurt or even killed for less,” he said.
After the woman tackled his son, he separated the two, but the woman then disappeared, Mr. Harrold said. He has not heard from her, he said.
“She definitely owes my son an apology, for sure,” he said. “I don’t expect that, and if it were to happen, cool. If it doesn’t happen, it’s so much bigger than that. It’s a narrative of what shouldn’t happen in daily life in America, that’s what it is.”
He said he was moving out of the hotel.
Jan Ransom contributed reporting.