Cleveland man alleges racial profiling after bank refuses to cash check, calls 9-1-1

Updated: Dec. 19, 2018 at 9:40 AM EST
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BROOKLYN, OH (WOIO) - A Cleveland man says he was racially profiled at a local branch when they called the cops on him for trying to cash a check.

Paul McCowns told Cleveland 19 News he went to the Huntington branch inside Giant Eagle on Biddulph Avenue in Brooklyn on Dec. 1.

“I had got a new job. I worked there for about three weeks,” he said.

McCowns said this was the first check from his new job with an electric company.

He was asked for two forms of ID, which both he and bank employees confirm he provided.

The bank said McCowns also provided a fingerprint, per bank policy for non-Huntington customers who wish to cash checks.

According to McCowns, bank employees started looking at the computer screen and questioning the transaction.

“They tried to call my employer numerous times. He never picked up the phone,” he said.

The paycheck was for a little more than $1,000. Tellers told him they couldn’t cash it.

So, McCowns said he left the bank.

“I get in my truck and the squad car pull in front of me and he says get out the car,” McCowns said.

What he didn’t know is that as he was leaving the bank, employees called 9-1-1 on him.

Cleveland 19 News obtained a copy of the 9-1-1 call and police report.

“He’s trying to cash a check and the check is fraudulent. It does not match our records,” said the teller to a 9-1-1 operator.

The operator asked the teller: “Does he know you called 9-1-1?”

The teller responded: “No.”

McCowns was handcuffed and put in the back of a Brooklyn Police cruiser.

Minutes after being arrested, police were able to get in contact with McCowns employer who confirmed the check was real and that McCowns is an employee.

“My employer said, ‘Yes he works for me. He just started and yes, my payroll company does pay him that much,’” McCowns explained.

He said he believes bank employees were racially profiling him.

Brooklyn Police confirmed to Cleveland 19 News that there was no fraud.

McCowns said he cashed the check the next day at another Huntington location with no problems.

We reached out to the bank. A bank rep said there have been 11 cases of fraud at this branch in just the last few months. The rep said the tellers were being hyper vigilant.

In a full statement, Huntington stated:

“We sincerely apologize to Mr. McCowns for this extremely unfortunate event. We accept responsibility for contacting the police as well as our own interactions with Mr. McCowns. Anyone who walks into a Huntington branch should feel welcomed. Regrettably, that did not occur in this instance and we are very sorry. We hold ourselves accountable to the highest ethical standards in how we operate, hire and train colleagues, and interact with the communities we have the privilege of serving.”

McCowns said he wanted an apology from the branch and for the tellers to be held accountable.

A Huntington rep said they attempted to reach out to McCowns numerous times to apologize, but he has not returned their calls.

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