NYC butcher gives black delivery man noose, police investigating as a hate crime

AP

Even in Manhattan, New York, racism can rear its ugly head.

A Manhattanite butcher is under police investigation for a hate crime after allegedly giving a noose accompanied with a threatening message to a black delivery man on Tuesday morning.

Joe Ottomanelli, of Ottomanelli & Sons Meat Market, reportedly made a noose out of yellow rope and told 36-year-old Victor Sheppard, "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 New York Daily News that Ottomanelli, 58, gave it to him as a "gift."

"I started shaking," Sheppard said. "He was laughing. I don't know what kind of joke that is."

Sheppard immediately reported the incident to the police. An investigation is already underway by the Hate Crimes Task Force.

Meat enthusiasts visit Ottomanelli & Sons Meat Market.Source: Neilson Barnard/Getty Images
Meat enthusiasts visit Ottomanelli & Sons Meat Market.  Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

Despite the United States' dark history of lynchings, Ottomanelli insists that the noose was just a joke.

"We were just fooling around," Ottomanelli added before confessing he didn't think giving a noose to a black man would ever be considered as a racist attack.

Ottomanelli's co-workers defended him and said that Sheppard laughed along with the racist jokes. Paul Durando, an employee at Ottomanelli & Sons, said Sheppard walked out laughing.

"I can't understand it," Durando said. "He walked out of here hysterically laughing. We love this guy."

"We work with black people," Ottomanelli said. "There's other black [drivers] that come here. No, never... We weren't raised that way." Other co-workers echoed Ottomanelli's comment, pointing to a black employee who has worked for the butcher shop for 13 years as proof Ottomanelli isn't racist.

But Sheppard doesn't buy it.

"Mentally and emotionally he's really hurt me," Sheppard said. "I felt very endangered, just doing my job. This is a man who's 58-plus. He really thinks handing a noose to a black man is sending a playful message?"

Ottomanelli offered to hug it out, but Sheppard was still scarred from the noose "joke." The 36-year-old said Ottomanelli has made racially charged remarks in the past. 

According to Sheppard, Ottomanelli once asked him, "Did you know that just a few years ago black people couldn't ride in the front of the bus?"

On Thursday evening, the butcher shop released a statement in response to Ottomanelli's racially insensitive "joke":

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.

But that didn't matter to Sheppard.

"I will never deliver there again," he said.