‘I Can’t Breathe’: Black Teen Sobs As Guards Choke Him For Shoplifting

“The next thing I see is the boy being tackled to the ground and a struggle ensued,” a witness said. “They began choking him and putting their hands over his mouth.”


In New York, private security guards of a department store were filmed holding down and punching a black teen accused of shoplifting from the store.

The violence was inflicted by multiple employees of Century 21 store at 22 Courtland Street in New York and was recorded by witness Brian Fraser. Fraser was walking home when he saw security guards walk a young teen, who has now been identified as Victor Roberson, across the street with his hands held behind his back. Fraser recalled the teen was “compliant” until the guards began to get violent with him.


“The next thing I see is the boy being tackled to the ground and a struggle ensued,” Fraser told Huffington Post. “They began choking him and putting their hands over his mouth.”

At one point during the struggle, Roberson began to bleed, and a knot appeared in his forehead. The security guards only picked him up and then slammed him against the wall and resumed the beating.

In the footage that has emerged of the incident, the teen can be seen struggling on the ground and yelling “I can’t breathe.”

The teen’s plea is chillingly similar to the last words of another black man who was also the victim of violence from authority figures. Eric Garner, the 43-year-old father of six, said these words when he died in a police chokehold in 2014. His last words became the chant of a burgeoning civil right movement, Black Lives Matter.

Passersby can be heard in the video footage urging the security guards to let go of the suffocating man.

Officers from the New York Police Department arrived after receiving reports a 19-year-old had tried to illegally place items in his backpack. Officers also reviewed the footage of the incident and arrested a 24-year-old employee of the store, Acosta Wilson, on an assault charge after determining that he had used excessive force. Roberson was taken to a hospital for his neck and back pain and then arrested for shoplifting.

The executive director of Century 21 Larry Mentzer said that the incident was being investigated and an employee had been suspended.

There has been a spate of incidents in the USA where black Americans became the target of violence and hatred in situations where white people would have been deemed harmless.

Recently, a white woman called the cops on a black Airbnb guest after she did not wave at her temporary neighbor. Sacramento police fatally shot 22-year-old Stephon Clark under the suspicion that he was holding a firearm when in reality he was just holding his cellphone.

Banner/Thumbnail credit: REUTERS/ DARREN ORNITZ

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