Police are investigating a butcher at West Village institution Ottomanelli & Sons Meat Market for a hate crime after he allegedly handed a black delivery man a noose. The Daily News reports that Joe Ottomanelli reportedly gave Victor Sheppard the noose as a “gift,” the victim told the News.
“If you ever have any stress, just put it around your neck and pull it. I could even help you with it,” Sheppard claims Ottomanelli told him.
Ottomanelli did not deny giving Sheppard the noose, but he said the whole incident was a joke. He added that he wanted to apologize, noting that he works with many black people and wasn’t “raised that way.” In a statement, the butcher shop said that they were working to resolve the issue immediately.
Still, Sheppard — who has been delivering to the butcher for eight months — alleges that it’s not the first time Ottomanelli has said or done something inappropriate. He claims Ottomanelli has also made comments like, “Did you know that just a few years ago, black people couldn’t ride in the front of the bus?”
Al Sharpton’s civil rights organization National Action Network plans to hold a rally in front of the 285 Bleecker Street market on Friday. The organization’s crisis director Rev. Kevin McCall is also calling for a boycott of the popular old-school Italian butcher, which has been in the Village for more than 50 years.
Meanwhile, Sheppard plans to stop going to the shop and has not accepted the butcher’s apology. “Mentally and emotionally, he’s really hurt me. I felt very endangered, just doing my job,” Sheppard tells the Daily News. “This is a man who’s 58-plus. He really thinks handing a noose to a black man is sending a playful message?”
Update: The butcher shop has taken down its Facebook post. Here’s the full statement:
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 the Village, and have the utmost respect for all of our employees and patrons.