A Manhattan butcher is being investigated for handing a noose to a black delivery driver as a "gift" on Tuesday, and telling him he can use it if he's stressed out at work.
According to the News, Joe Ottomanelli of Ottomanelli and Sons Meat Market in the West Village allegedly handed deliveryman Victor Sheppard a noose earlier this week and told him "Here's your gift." A police spokesperson tells us that Ottomanelli also allegedly said, "If you're stressed at work, you can put this around your neck and ease the pain" as he gave the noose to Sheppard.
"I started shaking. He was laughing. I don't know what kind of joke that is," Sheppard told the News. He brought the noose, which was made of yellow rope and electrical tape, to the 6th Precinct after Ottomanelli handed it to him, and a police spokesman said that the NYPD's Hate Crimes Task Force is investigating the incident as an aggravated harassment charge.
"He probably joked and someone took it the wrong way," Bleecker Street Pizza owner and friend of Ottomanelli Tony Salihaj told the Post, in defense of the meat market owner.
However, Sheppard questioned the "just joking" defense. "This is a man who’s 58-plus. He really thinks handing a noose to a black man is sending a playful message?" he asked the News. Sheppard also said that Ottomanelli once asked him, "Did you know that just a few years ago, black people couldn’t ride in the front of the bus?"
Sheppard has vowed never to deliver to Ottomanelli and Sons again.