A well-known New York butcher is being investigated for a hate crime after he was accused of giving a noose to a black deliveryman along with a hateful message, according to police sources.
The New York Daily News reports that according to its police sources, Joe Ottomanelli, of Manhattan’s Ottomanelli & Sons Meat Market, fashioned a noose out of yellow rope, gave it to 36-year-old deliveryman Victor Sheppard and told him, “If you ever have any stress, just put it around your neck and pull it. I could even help you with it.”
Sheppard told the Daily News that he froze when Ottomanelli presented the noose to him as a “gift” Tuesday morning.
“I started shaking,” Sheppard said. “He was laughing. I don’t know what kind of joke that is.”
Sheppard went to the 6th Precinct police stationhouse and filed a report immediately, the Daily News reports.
An investigation into the incident has been launched by the Hate Crimes Task Force.
Ottomanelli, 58, told the Daily News on Thursday that he has no beef (heh) with Sheppard and that the whole thing was a joke.
“We were just fooling around,” Ottomanelli said, and added that he never thought that what he considered a joke would be taken as a racial attack.
“We work with black people,” Ottomanelli said. “There’s other black drivers that come here. No, never. .. We weren’t raised that way.”
Ottomanelli told the Daily News that he wanted to apologize to Sheppard and give him a hug, but Sheppard was cool on that idea.
“Mentally and emotionally, he’s really hurt me. I felt very endangered, just doing my job,” Sheppard said. “This is a man who’s 58-plus. He really thinks handing a noose to a black man is sending a playful message?”
Sheppard, who has been delivering meat to the butcher shop for the past eight months, said that Ottomanelli has made racially insensitive comments before, but Sheppard had just brushed them off.
“He once said, ‘Did you know that just a few years ago, black people couldn’t ride in the front of the bus?’” Sheppard said.
A call to boycott the butcher shop has already been made by the national crisis director of the National Action Network, the Rev. Kevin McCall, who said, “In 2017, you would never think someone would hand someone a noose.”
From the Daily News:
Ottomanelli worker Paul Durando said Sheppard didn’t seem offended when he left the store that day.
“I can’t understand it. He walked out of here hysterically laughing,” Durando said. “We love this guy.”
Other staffers also defended Ottomanelli and pointed to a black man who’s worked there for 13 years as a sign the establishment is not racist.
Sheppard told the Daily News that he will never deliver to the butcher shop again.
Ottomanelli & Sons issued a statement that read: “This is an unfortunate circumstance that we are working to resolve immediately. We are a family-owned business with over 50 years of service in [Manhattan’s West Village neighborhood], and have the utmost respect for all of our employees and patrons.”
Read more at the New York Daily News.