An Ohio man trying to cash his paycheck from a new job was handcuffed and put in the back of a police car after a bank teller called 911 on the false belief the check was fraudulent.
Now the bank is apologizing as reports of the incident have sparked a new hashtag, #BankingWhileBlack.
Paul McCowns, of Cleveland, went to a Huntington Bank branch in the suburb of Brooklyn, Ohio, on Dec. 1 to cash his paycheck of a little over $1,000, according to police and the bank.
McCowns told police he provided two forms of identification, as well as his fingerprints, which is standard policy for non-account holders at the bank.
Bank employees continued to question his transaction, the bank told NBC News. They attempted to reach his employer but could not.
McCowns was leaving, without having gotten his check cashed, when he was approached by police, told to get out of his car, handcuffed and put in the back of a police cruiser.
It turns out that as he was on his way out, a bank employee had called 911.
“He’s trying to cash a check and the check is fraudulent. It does not match our records,” the employee is heard telling the 911 operator in the recording obtained by NBC News.
“Does he know you called 9-1-1?” the operator asked.
The employee responded: “No.”
The police report said officers were able to get in touch with McCowns’ employer who confirmed that his check was real.
The next day, McCowns cashed the check at another Huntington branch, the bank said.
A spokesman for Huntington Bank told NBC News on Wednesday that it sincerely apologizes to McCowns for “this extremely unfortunate event.”
“We accept responsibility for contacting the police as well as our own interactions with Mr. McCowns,” the spokesman said. “Anyone who walks into a Huntington branch should feel welcomed. Regrettably, that did not occur in this instance and we are very sorry.”
The bank also said: “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.”
The bank spokesman also said that the branch where McCowns was unable to cash his check had 11 cases of fraud over the last few months, “so the tellers were being hypervigilant.”
The spokesman said the bank has attempted to reach McCowns by phone several times to apologize, but has not heard back.
NBC News was not immediately able to reach McCowns for comment.