A famed West Village butcher is the subject of a hate crime investigation after he was accused of serving up a noose to a black delivery man, police sources said Thursday.
Joe Ottomanelli, of Ottomanelli & Sons Meat Market on Bleecker St., is accused of giving Victor Sheppard a noose fashioned out of yellow rope and an odd message, sources said.
“If you ever have any stress, just put it around your neck and pull it. I could even help you with it,” Sheppard, 36, said Ottomanelli told him.
Sheppard said he froze after Ottomanelli presented the noose as a “gift” on Tuesday morning.
“I started shaking,” he told the Daily News. “He was laughing. I don’t know what kind of joke that is.”
The delivery man made a beeline to the 6th Precinct stationhouse, where he filed a report and handed over the noose, sources told the Daily News.
The Hate Crimes Task Force has launched an investigation into the incident.
Reached Thursday at his uber-popular meat mecca, Ottomanelli insisted he has no beef with Sheppard.
“We were just fooling around,” Ottomanelli, 58, told The News.
Ottomanelli said he never thought that what he considered a joke would be taken as a racial attack.
“We work with black people,” Ottomanelli said. “There’s other black drivers that come here. No, never. … We weren’t raised that way.”
Ottomanelli said he wanted to apologize to Sheppard and give him a hug — but the delivery man sounded in no mood to forgive.
“Mentally and emotionally he’s really hurt me. I felt very endangered, just doing my job,” Sheppard said.
“This is a man who’s 58-plus. He really thinks handing a noose to a black man is sending a playful message?”
Sheppard has been delivering meat to the century-old butcher for the past eight months.
He said Ottomanelli has made racially insensitive comments in the past, but the delivery man just brushed them off.
“He once said, ‘Did you know that just a few years ago black people couldn’t ride in the front of the bus?’ ” Sheppard said.
Rev. Kevin McCall, the national crisis director of the National Action Network, called for a boycott of the beloved butcher shop.
“In 2017 you would never think someone would hand someone a noose,” McCall said.
Ottomanelli worker Paul Durando said Sheppard didn’t seem offended when he left the store that day.
“I can’t understand it. He walked out of here hysterically laughing,” Durando said. “We love this guy.”
Other staffers also defended Ottomanelli and pointed to a black man who’s worked there for 13 years as a sign the establishment is not racist.
Customer Stephen Werther, 57, said he was surprised to learn of the controversy.
“The idea that someone would think that they did something aggressive, or threatening, is completely out of character,” Werther said. “No one will ever have a bad thing to say about these guys.”
Sheppard, for his part, vowed to never return to Ottomanelli’s shop. “I will never deliver there again,” he said.
In a statement, Ottomanelli & Sons said: “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.”
With Thomas Tracy