Harrold and his son are Black and were guests at the hotel in lower Manhattan. The woman in the video appears to be White.
His video of the encounter has been widely shared on social media, prompting an outcry about what many felt was yet another incident of racial profiling against Black men. The hotel apologized and called the woman’s behavior a “baseless accusation, prejudice and assault against an innocent guest.”
The prominent jazz trumpeter spoke Wednesday at a news conference and rally near the steps of New York’s City Hall, where he was accompanied by civil rights attorney Ben Crump and the Rev. Al Sharpton. He also followed a rendition of “America the Beautiful” with “We Shall Overcome” in the late December chill.
“If I wasn’t who I was .. this wouldn’t even be an issue,” he said before a meeting with the district attorney that was — according to Crump — arranged by Sharpton.
Harrold, who is from Ferguson, Missouri, said he had been racially profiled himself throughout his life. He noted that the hotel episode could have ended “wrongly” had he not been with his son at the moment.
“I want my son to grow up whole. That’s all we want… I come from Ferguson and this has been my passport to the world,” Harrold said, pointing to his trumpet. “And I can’t even come downstairs in New York City … and just go get brunch without being attacked and wrongfully accused of something.”
Kat Rodriguez, the teen’s mother, said hotel management was equally culpable for not deescalating the situation and for allowing the accuser to leave before police arrived. She demanded that the woman be charged with assault.
“This fight is not only for our son. It’s for all of our sons and daughters,” said Rodrigruez, who’s a musician and a teacher. “If we were a family that didn’t have these connections … if I was a maid, this story wouldn’t have hit the news. What about those people that don’t get to get heard?”
Rodriguez, growing emotional at times, added, “I want to thank God because this incident could have ended very different. We have seen this … I pray for the mothers and fathers who have lost their sons to racial injustice.”
Rodriguez and others at the new conference asked what would have happened if a Black man or woman assaulted a White child and tried to take their phone.
A spokesman for Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance said his office “is thoroughly investigating” the incident, and the New York Police Department told CNN that a complaint for harassment at the Arlo Soho hotel has been filed.
After viewing surveillance video of the incident, investigators are considering charging the woman with assault and possibly grand larceny or attempted robbery, said Rodney Harrison, chief of detectives for the New York Police Department, on Tuesday.
The woman disputes the accusations against her
The woman has not come forward, but CNN on Tuesday was the first news organization to talk to her by phone, and she disputed Harrold’s account of what happened.
While the 22-year-old woman claimed she was assaulted during the altercation, CNN hasn’t been able to corroborate her account with investigators or with the hotel where the incident took place.
In a 20-minute phone interview, she said the incident unfolded after she first demanded to see the hotel’s surveillance video to try and pinpoint who may have taken her phone. She says she then asked someone else in the hotel lobby to “empty their pocket,” before ultimately confronting Keyon Harrold Jr., who she maintained had her phone in his pocket.
“That’s when everything got a little bit more serious,” the woman said referring to the interaction.
Throughout the phone call, the woman’s account of the incident was rambling at times. She provided additional information of events preceding and unrelated to the incident that CNN has been unable to confirm.
When asked if she’s concerned about possibly facing charges and overall how she is portrayed in the video, she said, “Of course I worry. That’s not who I am. I actually… try very hard to make sure that I am always doing the right thing.”
The woman told CNN that she is willing to cooperate with the ongoing investigation, but she hasn’t received a call from the NYPD yet nor has she reached out herself. She also said she’d be willing to talk to the Harrolds.
After she agreed to provide evidence that could help confirm her claim that she was assaulted, she stopped responding to CNN’s phone calls and text messages.
CNN is not naming her at this time because she said she has concerns for her safety unrelated to this incident.
CNN also requested a police report from the NYPD, but it declined to provide one, saying it typically does not in such situations.
Many who have seen Harrold’s video, including New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, have alleged racism. But there are no plans “at this time” to charge the woman with a bias crime, Harrison said.
“The investigation is still preliminary, a lot of work still needs to be done,” he…