MANHATTAN — A woman physically attacked a Black teenager and then fled the scene, evading cops, after having first falsely accused the 14-year-old of stealing her cellphone.
That's the description that the NYPD has now made of the incident that took place in the lobby of the Arlo Hotel in SoHo last Saturday. The chief of detectives also released a surveillance video of the incident, which supports claims made by the teen's family that the woman carried out a series of crimes against him.
It all provoked Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday to talk about the situation in terms of race. Still, the attack is not being pursued as a hate crime at this point.
The encounter happened when Keyon Harrold — a trumpeter who's played on the soundtrack of a Grammy Award-winning film and has collaborated with Beyoncé, Rihanna, Jay-Z, Eminem, and many other prominent recording artists — stepped off the elevator into the Arlo Hotel lobby.
"We literally were coming downstairs to have brunch, just me and my son," Harrold said, at a news conference on Wednesday, when he says woman shouted the false accusation.
He recorded the encounter on his cellphone. That video has been viewed millions of times on social media and has been widely shared. It ends, according to Harrold, right when he had to stop it to step in and protect his son from the woman, as she physically assaulted the teen.
The surveillance video released late on Wednesday shows the actual attack.
On footage apparently provided to investigators by the hotel, the woman grabs the young man and pulls him to the ground. The attack was captured from two different surveillance camera angles.
In a tweet, the NYPD Chief of Detectives, Rodney Harrison, said that the woman "proceeded to physically attack... an innocent 14-year-old... and fled the location before police officers arrived on the scene."
On Saturday, December 26, the woman in this video falsely accused an innocent 14-year-old teenager of stealing her cellphone. She then proceeded to physically attack him and fled the location before police officers arrived on scene. pic.twitter.com/qtZZWetBWH— Chief Rodney Harrison (@NYPDDetectives) December 31, 2020
He also said that the boy was "falsely accused" by the woman. Her identity has not officially been released, but the chief's tweet also shows her face, with the word "wanted" underneath the image.
The Harrold family is working with a legal team led by prominent civil rights lawyer Ben Crump. At the Wednesday news conference, Crump said that they know that the woman has consulted her own legal counsel, who have a different take on what happened.
"Trying to allege that she was assaulted by Keyon," Crump said, referring to the renowned trumpeter. "We know that the hotel surveillance video has it all."
On Thursday, at his daily news conference, Mayor Bill de Blasio also condemned the false claim.
"It's very personal for me," the mayor said. "I have a son of color who is about as good a human being as you could possibly imagine. And yet, I know, he will be looked down on and disrespected throughout his life — and it's not fair and it's not right and it has to end."
Meanwhile, the teen's mother, Kat Rodriguez, has said that while the family is strong, the crime that occurred has had a negative effect on their son.
"He said and we heard him say this," Rodriguez said at Wednesday's news conference, "'She was probably scared of me. And threatened.' No 14-year-old boy should be scared and threatened!" the mother exclaimed.
According to law enforcement sources, the father, Keyon Harrold, went to the local precinct to look at a photo lineup that included images of the woman. Sources also said that the woman, who is as yet unidentified officially, faces assault, attempted grand larceny, and endangering the welfare of a child charges.
Activist Rev. Al Sharpton spoke out on Wednesday.
"We consider it a bias crime," he said. He, attorney Crump and the family had just met with Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance when Sharpton spoke. "He said, 'I'm not ruling it out,'" Sharpton said, quoting the D.A., "'but I'm not committing to it."
The New York State Penal Law, which the NYPD follows in determining pursuits of hate crime charges, states that “A bias incident is an offense or unlawful act that is motivated in whole or substantial part by a person’s, a group’s or a place’s identification with a particular race, color, religion, ethnicity, gender, age, disability, ancestry, national origin or sexual orientation (including gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender) as determined by the Commanding Officer of the Hate Crime Task Force.”
Meanwhile, a petition initiated by Crump in support of the family, and calling for criminal charges to be issued in the case, has received more than 75,000 signatures. The attorney is seeking 100,000 signatures in the petition that he launched on Tuesday.
This story was first published by James Ford at WPIX in New York, New York.