Connecticut man charged over racist comment and tirade at smoothie shop

A Connecticut man has been charged after authorities say he threw a drink and racial slurs at employees of a local smoothie shop, whom he blamed for a severe allergic reaction that sent his son to the hospital.

Fairfield police alleged the man, James Iannazzo, 48, returned to a Robeks Fresh Juices & Smoothies store on Saturday after his son had an allergic reaction and berated staff, demanding they tell him who had put peanut butter in the boy’s drink.

“When the employees were unable to provide Iannazzo with the response, he became enraged, yelling at the employees using a number of expletives,” police said. “He then threw a drink at an employee, who hit him in the right shoulder.”

The Robeks location in Fairfield, Connecticut, where a man made a racist tirade and threw a drink at an employee.  (Google Maps)

The Robeks location in Fairfield, Connecticut, where a man made a racist tirade and threw a drink at an employee. (Google Maps)

Police also say Iannazzo made comments to an employee “referring to his immigration status.” Authorities said he continued to yell at employees and attempted to open a door to Robeks’ “employees only” area after being repeatedly asked to leave.

Iannazzo, who left the store before authorities arrived, turned himself in to police later. He was charged with intimidation based on fanaticism or bias, breach of the peace and criminal trespass.

Charli Hill, 17, said she was called early on Saturday because their store was busy and hadn’t interacted with Iannazzo when she arrived. From what she knew, he had requested a nut-free “peanut plus” smoothie but had not informed anyone of an allergy.

“He just said there were no peanuts in it, but if you don’t say you have a nut allergy – which is an option on the app and in person – we use different stuff if there’s a nut allergy…so he didn’t tell us he had an allergy,” Hill said.

When Iannazzo returned to the store, he was aggressive and immediately began yelling at staff, Hill said. At first, the team of teenagers were respectful, but the situation escalated.

“He was like, ‘I’ll be waiting for you when you get off work,'” Hill said. “He kept threatening us. He kept trying to get in the door saying racial slurs.”

Hill began recording it after saying he had threatened them before and made several insults. One of the new employees called 911 while Hill’s friend and colleague confronted Iannazzo.

Iannazzo directed what Hill described as racial slurs, including a “losing immigrant” comment in the recording, at his colleague. Hill said she thought the situation took a mental toll on the girl.

“She describes herself as OK, but I know she’s not and she’s really upset,” Hill said. “And everything right now with him saying he’s not racist, but it’s really taking a toll.”

Hill posted her recording on TikTok, where she had a small following, because she knew the app had the power to raise awareness. But the video was taken down and his account was temporarily suspended.

“They really hurt me, because I thought it was extremely important to me, my friends and my colleagues,” Hill said. “I wanted it out there and I wanted justice done for my friend.”

TikTok did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the video’s removal.

But screen recordings of the video continued to circulate on social media over the weekend, even after Hill’s account was suspended. A clip posted on Twitter has been viewed over 2 million times.

Iannazzo’s attorney, Frank Riccio, said in a statement Sunday morning that Iannazzo “wholeheartedly regrets the incident”. Riccio added that Iannazzo insisted to staff members that his drink should not contain peanut butter because his son suffered from a life-threatening allergy.

“When faced with a dire situation for his son, Mr. Iannazzo’s parental instinct kicked in and he acted out of anger and fear,” Riccio said. “He is not a racist individual and deeply regrets his statements and actions during a time of extreme emotional stress.”

Employees told police that Iannazzo requested that his drink be made without peanut butter, but made no mention of an allergy.

Merrill Lynch confirmed that Iannazzo no longer worked as a financial adviser to the company after the incident.

“Our company does not condone behavior like this,” the company said in a statement on Sunday. “We immediately investigated and took action. This individual is no longer employed by our company.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button