Detectives from the New York City police department are traveling to California to interview a woman who was filmed trying to tackle a black teenager who she falsely accused of stealing her phone.
News of the incident was widely shared in late December after Keyon Harrold, a well-known jazz trumpeter, posted a video online.
The footage, filmed in the lobby of a Soho hotel, shows a woman angrily accusing Harrold’s 14-year-old son, Keyon Harrold Jr, of stealing her cellphone. Surveillance footage later shared by police showed the woman grabbing at Harrold Jr in an apparent attempt to take his phone.
The woman’s phone was returned to her by an Uber driver shortly after she had accosted Harrold Jr.
The woman did not explicitly mention race in the video, but the incident offered a grim reminder of the problem of racial bias in the US.
Harrold said his son was racially profiled, and the civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is representing the Harrolds, said the video “documented the persistent truth of racism in America”.
The NYPD confirmed to the Guardian on Thursday that detectives would send officers would speak to the woman, although it was unclear if she would be charged.
In the days following the incident more than 100,000 people signed a petition demanding that the Manhattan district attorney charge the woman with a crime.
“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 wrote in a statement accompanying the petition.
In an opinion post for USA Today, Harrold said the manager of the hotel had initially sided with the woman who accosted his son, and said that as a black man he faced bias in society.
“What if I had lost my cellphone, walked into an upscale establishment and wrongfully accused a 14-year-old white child of stealing my phone, then assaulted that child and his father?” Harrold wrote.
“Would the establishment’s manager have enabled me to attack them and allowed me to leave the establishment only to realize later that I lost my phone in an Uber?”