Paul McCowns had just completed his first three weeks of work at an electric company in Cleveland, Ohio, and was eager to cash his first paycheck. When he tried to do so, he found himself handcuffed in the back seat of a police vehicle.
McCowns, who is black, is alleging that a Huntington bank branch in Cleveland racially profiled him and didn’t believe his paycheck was real. The amount for his three weeks of work exceeded $1,000, which he said they believed was too high for him to have earned, per a report from Cleveland 19.
McCowns isn’t a customer at Huntington, but was trying to cash a Huntington-issued check from his employer. Per company protocol, McCowns voluntarily submitted two forms of photo ID and even allowed the bank to take his fingerprint.
Even after that happened, the bank tellers were hesitant to cash the check.
“They tried to call my employer numerous times,” McCowns recalled, but “he never picked up the phone.”
McCowns said the white employees repeatedly looked over the check, and looked at the computer screen, trying to determine what their next steps should be. They went in the back and later returned to tell McCowns they couldn’t cash the check. He decided to leave at that point.
Typical racist nonsense, and the kind of thing that rarely happens to white folks in the same situation…He showed ID, he gave a fingerprint but they still called cops…https://t.co/hn70nKVPAL
— Tim Wise (@timjacobwise) December 18, 2018
What McCowns didn’t realize was that the bank employees had been calling the police while they were in the back of the branch. They had told the police dispatcher that McCowns was “trying to cash a check and the check is fraudulent.”
“I get in my truck and the squad car pull in front of me and he says get out the car,” McCowns said. He complied, was handcuffed, and placed in the back of the vehicle.
While sitting handcuffed in the car, police did call up McCowns’s employer. He confirmed that McCowns is indeed one of his workers and that the check amount was real. Police released McCowns following the incident.
After news of his being detained by police after their employees called the cops on McCowns, Huntington released an official statement apologizing for what their workers had done, according to reporting from the Root.
“Anyone who walks into a Huntington branch should feel welcomed. Regrettably, that did not occur in this instance and we are very sorry,” the company said in its statement.
McCowns had his own commentary for what transpired at the bank. “It was highly embarrassing,” he said.