Ottomanelli & Sons Meat Market on Bleecker St. is a famed West Village butcher shop run by Joe Ottomanelli. Now, the NYC meat titan is being investigated for committing a hate crime after allegedly handing a black delivery man named Victor Sheppard a noose as he exited the establishment on Tuesday morning. Sheppard says that as Ottomanelli handed him the rope, he said, “If you ever have any stress, just put it around your neck and pull it. I could even help you with it.”
In an interview with the New York Daily News, Sheppard said he “froze” when he was handed the noose. “I started shaking,” says Sheppard, “He was laughing. I don’t know what kind of joke that is.”
A worker at the shop, Paul Durando, claims Sheppard did not appear upset at the time of the incident, and says he was joking too. “I can’t understand it. He walked out of here hysterically laughing,” said Durando to NYDN, “We love this guy.”
Ottomanelli & Sons offered this statement to the paper on Thursday night: “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.”
Ottomanelli himself says he’d like to meet with Sheppard, who has been delivering at the store the last eight months, and give him a hug. “We work with black people,” Ottomanelli told NYDN, “There’s other black drivers that come here. No, never. . . We weren’t raised that way.”
Sheppard is not interested in a reconciliation, and says he will never deliver to the store again. He also suggests this isn’t the first incident he has had with Ottomanelli, who he says once asked him, “Did you know that just a few years ago, black people couldn’t ride in the front of the bus?”
“Mentally and emotionally, he’s really hurt me. I felt very endangered, just doing my job,” said Sheppard, “This is a man who’s 58-plus. He really thinks handing a noose to a black man is sending a playful message?”
The Hate Crimes Task Force has opened up an investigation on the incident.