CHICAGO (CBS) — A black teenager accused a Loop restaurant manager of racial profiling and assault, and the manager has been suspended after hitting the young man with a chair.
John “Kyle” Johnson, 18, said he and his friends walked into the Poke Poke restaurant at Monroe and Wabash on Jan. 2, because he saw someone inside wave at him. He said, when they got inside, manager Matthew Fezzey immediately started yelling and swearing at them.
“Matthew just literally just started yelling at me, like, ‘I’ll kick you’re a**. This is my place of business,’” Johnson said Wednesday afternoon. “So I’m just staring at him, into his eyes, I’m trying to figure out why is he so upset? Why is he so angry with me? So as I’m just staring to him, just listening to him yell at me, he picks up a chair and he just swings it at me.”
Johnson said the chair hit him in his left arm, and Fezzey threatened to call the police, leaving him dumbfounded.
“It made me feel voiceless, because it’s like when the police come, am I going to be charged for something that I didn’t do. Are they going to look at me like I’m the one who actually did something, you know?” he said. “I believe that he was trying to racially profile me. I believe that he was trying to point me out, and just say, ‘Hey, you’re a black kid. You’re not wanted around here.’”
Johnson later called police himself, and began filming Fezzey after they went outside. While Fezzey later apologized on video, Johnson said he didn’t believe the apology was genuine.
“It sounded like he was just trying to cover hisself,” Johnson said.
Chicago police confirmed officers responded to the incident. In an email, CPD spokesman Howard Ludwig said the manager told officers Johnson “clenched his fists and behaved in a manner that made [him] believe he was going to receive a battery.”
Police also said Johnson told two other people inside the restaurant – both men in their 20s – “that he had something in his backpack that would end them.”
Johnson denied ever saying that.
Area Central detectives were investigating.
Fezzey has been suspended over the incident. In the video of the incident, he repeatedly said he was wrong, and said his reaction was his “first instinct” after previous encounters with black men.
“Two days ago, not trying to be racist, two black guys robbed two people right here,” Fezzey said in the video.
“Sir, but you threw a chair at me! I’m not those guys,” Johnson said.
“No, no. Listen, listen. Three days before that, I had two more black guys, I actually fought them in here. Eight p.m. at night, they tried threatening one of my employees and I had to fight them. When you guys came in here, I just get really f***ing defensive. Really defensive, because I have to fight them off all the time,” Fezzey said.
“Sir, you threw a chair at me,” Johnson responded.
“I know,” Fezzey added. “Again, I am f***ing way in the wrong. I feel bad, but that was just my first instinct, because I’ve had to deal with fights here, which I shouldn’t, and I legit thought we had to fight,” Fezzey said. “I shouldn’t have done that s***, man. I mean, it was wrong, but I’m not going to lie, man. I had to fight three people in my restaurant the other day. So I thought I had to fight some more people. So s***, I freaked out.”
The restaurant has apologized on Facebook, calling Fezzey’s behavior “absolutely unacceptable and against what we stand for.”
“We are taking this matter very seriously. Racism has no place in today’s society, and no one should ever be judged by the color of their skin. There are no excuses for what happened to Kyle and for that we apologize,” the post stated.