BRANDON, Fla. (FOX 13) - A customer at a Starbucks in Brandon is accusing an employee of racial profiling after he claims he was harassed and issued a trespassing ticket.
Lorne Green said he was a target as soon as he walked into the store and headed to the restroom before stopping to make a purchase last month.
"Almost as soon as he entered the door, he heard somebody say, 'There's a big black guy headed to the restroom,'" his attorney, Jasmine Rand, said during a news conference. "A few minutes later, this incessant knocking starts, knocking on the door, over and over again, 'Do you need Fire Rescue? Do you need Fire Rescue?'"
Rand and Green believe employees were trying to get him to come out of the bathroom. Instead, Green called the Starbucks corporate telephone number.
Rand said the conversation lasted more than 20 minutes, two minutes of which she played for reporters.
"I used the bathroom and they called the police on me. And she said I'm a black male and they called the police on me," Green can be heard saying during the call, which was recorded by both Starbucks and Green.
"So you feel like this is racially motivated, correct?" the customer service representative asks.
"It is very because I walked in and she immediately -- in not even five minutes -- she goes, 'a black male went inside,' and called the police on me before I even got in the bathroom," Green responds.
Green, who claims he heard someone twice call him "the big black guy," ended up leaving the restroom and eventually the store. By then, an employee had called Hillsborough deputies, who issued Green a trespassing ticket at the request of the store.
"It's being humiliating and defaming me and belittling me," Green said Wednesday. "I just feel awful and I tried to make the best out of something that was truly escalating out of control."
He and his attorney said this situation bears a striking resemblance to a case in Philadelphia last year, when two black men were arrested after sitting in a Starbucks without making a purchase.
The company held racial-bias training and changed its policy to allow anyone, including nonpaying guests, to sit in its stores and use its restrooms.
"Here we are again, a year later, and you failed in your promise to the public to keep them safe," Rand said.
"I have never experienced anything like this to this degree. This is extreme," added Green.
Reached via phone, a Starbucks spokesperson told FOX 13, "We always strive to create a warm environment where everyone feels welcome. We have zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind and take this type of accusation very seriously. We are conducting an investigation to understand what happened and will take appropriate action."
Green plans to file a lawsuit, although the details have not yet been ironed out. In the meantime, he wants the trespassing citation dropped and the employee fired.