Grammy Award-winning jazz musician Keyon Harrold and his 14-year-old son, Keyon Harrold, Jr., were guests at the upscale New York City Arlo SoHo hotel on Dec. 26 when they were accosted by a “Karen” who accused the teen of stealing her iPhone.
According to moguldom.com, Harrold, who has performed with Beyoncé, Jay-Z, and Rihanna, had just come down to the lobby area to go to brunch with his son when the incident happened.
He videotaped the encounter with his phone and it went viral, showing the world how the white woman accused the Black teen of stealing her phone and appeared to physically assault the father and son.
The woman’s phone was found in an Uber shortly after the confrontation and the Uber driver returned it to the hotel. It seems the woman had no idea she had left the phone in the Uber.
In the video, you can hear Kenyon Harrold Jr. inform the woman, “This is my phone.” His father tells him that he doesn’t need to explain himself to her.
“Take the case off. That’s mine. Literally, get it back,” says the unidentified woman to a hotel employee. The woman had reportedly been a guest at the hotel and had checked out three days prior.
“Are you kidding me? You think there’s only one iPhone made in the world?” Harrold, an acclaimed trumpet player, can be heard saying.
A hotel employee seems to side with the woman and asks the young Harrold to show his phone. Again, the father says no.
“He has my phone! Show me the proof! He’s not leaving,” the woman yells.
“What, you see two Black people —” Harrold says.
The woman screams, “No, I’m not letting him get away with my phone.”
“This incident went on for five more minutes, me protecting my son from this lunatic,” Harrold wrote in an Instagram post that included a video of the incident. “She scratched me; she Tackled and grabbed him. He is a child!!!”
The woman lunged at the father and son and fell to the ground.
Harrold Jr.’s mother, Katty Rodriguez, is also a successful musician who has worked as a saxophonist for Beyoncé for more than 10 years. She spoke out on social media and said she believes the treatment of her son was racial profiling.
“The most painful feeling today as a parent was to feel helpless in protecting my child against racial hatred,” Rodriguez wrote on Instagram.
Rodriguez also said she was disappointed by the hotel’s response.
“I expect this from the Karen’s in Amerikka but not from hospitality professionals!!!!! Your job is to be hospitable to all!” she wrote on Instagram.
In a statement later posted on Instagram, the hotel said that “more could have been done to de-escalate the dispute.”
The family reported the Karen incident to police. The New York Police Department confirmed to BuzzFeed that a harassment complaint had been filed. A spokesperson for the Manhattan district attorney told NBC News that the office is “thoroughly investigating this incident.”
The hotel did not apologize until Dec. 27. “We’re deeply disheartened about the recent incident of baseless accusation, prejudice and assault against an innocent guest of Arlo hotel,” it said in a statement. “We are committed to making sure this never happens again at any of our hotels.”
But the Karen encounter has affected the family. Keyon Harrold told the New York Times that he was “shellshocked” over it.
“The management didn’t even question her as to why she would even think he had the phone,” Harrold said.
Civil rights lawyer Ben Crump is representing the Harrolds and has demanded that the Manhattan District Attorney bring assault and battery charges against the woman who accused and allegedly assaulted Harrold’s 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.”
On his website, Crump said, “Keyon Harrold Jr. will live with this trauma for life, the weight of racism on the shoulders of another generation. He deserves better than this treatment!”
Crump encouraged the general public to share the video and speak out in support of the Harrolds.
Of course, Twitter had lots to say about the latest viral Karen.
“Please find this woman and put her and her sense of entitlement on blast and that so-called mgr needs to be bounced HARD down to bellboy! I am SO angry! Wow! I’m SO glad you were there because God knows what might have transpired if the law had showed up and your son was alone,” said one tweeter.
Another pointed out that the four-star hotel’s general manager, Bassim Ouachani, seems to be a supporter of Donald Trump due to his supportive tweets of the lame-duck president.
“The manager could have called her phone without even approaching them,” one Twitter user said.