Noted Musician Alleges Woman Assaulted His Son After False Theft Claim at NYC Hotel

The Arlo Hotel later posted its statement on Instagram, issuing an apology to Harrold and saying that what happened was "inexcusable"

NBC Universal, Inc.

Jazz musician Keyon Harrold claims he and his son were assaulted at an upscale New York City hotel by a woman who accused the teenage boy of stealing her cellphone over the weekend.

Harrold on Sunday posted a video on Instagram which showed part of the incident in the lobby of the Arlo Hotel in SoHo, sparking conversations about how Black people are treated and perceived. The renowned trumpeter said he and his 14-year-old son came down from their hotel room Saturday to get breakfast when they were accosted by the woman, who has not been identified, and hotel staff.

In the one-minute long video, the woman kept insisting for Harrold's son to show her his phone, alleging that it belongs to her and saying that "he's not leaving" until they prove that they didn't steal her phone.

"This incident went on for five more minutes, me protecting my son from this lunatic. She scratched me; she Tackled and grabbed him," Harrold wrote in the Instagram caption. The footage doesn't appear to show anyone being physically attacked but Harrold can be heard saying "get your hands off" before the video abruptly ended.

He said he later filed a police report against the woman. The NYPD confirmed to NBC News that the incident took place Saturday but did not provide other details. It was not clear what happened before or after the video clip, but Harrold said that the woman's phone was later found in an Uber.

Harrold said the woman wasn't a current hotel guest and that she checked out on Dec. 23, a few days before the incident, but the hotel manager still appeared to try to get Harrold's son to show the woman his phone.

"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 box day brunch with his dad," Harrold wrote, adding that an Uber driver later returned the woman her phone.

"I still don't know who this person is. And it was literally one of the most traumatic experiences I've ever experienced in my life. Somebody trying to attack my son," Harrold said in an interview with NBC News.

NBC News is attempting to identify and reach out to the woman involved in this incident, whose identity has not been released despite her face being fully revealed at one point in the video. At least two Instagrammers who recently spent time in Arlo hotels have said online trolls are now falsely accusing them of being racist.

In a follow-up post, Harrold cautioned against "doing what we are fighting against ... accusing a woman before she is proven guilty."

Harrold said neither police nor the hotel initially took the incident seriously. "I showed them the video and I said, 'listen, this should be taken seriously' and they really didn't," he said, adding that the confrontation left his son with emotional trauma.

"My son over and over again he tells his mom, he tells me, 'why would she think that I would take her phone?'" Harrold said.

The Arlo Hotel later posted its statement on Instagram, issuing an apology to Harrold and saying that the incident was "inexcusable."

"In investigating the incident further, we've learned that the manager on duty promptly called the police regarding the woman's conduct and that hotel security intervened to prevent further violence; still, more could have been done to deescalate the dispute," the statement read.

The case is the latest in a series of caught-on-camera confrontations where Black people were wrongly accused over the last year. The most recent and widely shared incident occurred in Central Park back in May when a white woman falsely accused Christian Cooper, a birdwatcher who is Black, of assault after he asked her to put her dog on a leash.

Ben Crump, a civil rights lawyer representing Harrold's family, demanded the Manhattan District Attorney bring assault and battery charges against the woman who accused and allegedly assaulted Harrold's 14-year-old son.

"This is what it will take to drive change," Crump said in a statement. “It’s deeply troubling that incidents like this one, in which a Black child is viewed as and treated like a criminal, continue to happen."

A spokesperson for the Manhattan DA told NBC News that the office is "thoroughly investigating this incident." There was no word on whether charges would stem from the incident, but Harrold believes there should be — and said there is more video.

"I feel like the hotels video is 10 times worse, because this whole dramatic event went on a lot longer than what we see," Harrold said.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the incident was a clear example of racism.

"It would be horrific at any age, but it’s especially offensive that it happened to a child," de Blasio said in a tweet. "To Keyon Harrold Jr. and his family: I am so sorry this happened to you. Her behavior was an affront to our city’s values."

Copyright NBC New York
Contact Us