Oscar-winner Forest Whitaker’s visit to a Morningside Heights gourmet deli came with a side order of stop and frisk.
The “Bird” star was accused of shoplifting and patted down Friday around lunchtime by an overzealous employee at the Milano Market, according to Whitaker’s publicist. The encounter was confirmed by a store employee.
The humiliating episode came as Whitaker, who won the Academy Award for his 2006 portrayal of Idi Ami, was walking out.
The suspicious worker stopped Whitaker, charging that he stole something from the store shelves.
"It was around lunchtime and the store was packed," said a Milano employee who refused to give his name.
"We were like 50 people deep. The person walked in and out really quickly so our person just made a mistake. The employee apologized immediately. It was an honest mistake. I've been here 14 years and nothing like this has ever happened."
Many stars frequent the Columbia University-area gourmet deli specializing in Italian fare. Tobey McGuire and Sarah Jessica Parker have been spotted at the upscale grocery.
Still, Whittaker's representative said the star was troubled by the incident.
“This was an upsetting incident given the fact that Forest did nothing more than walk into the deli,” said his publicist, Jennifer Plante.
“What is most unfortunate about this situation is the inappropriate way store employees are treating patrons of their establishment.”
Whitaker, who lives in California, was in New York working on a project this week.
His assistant said the actor, whose credits include “The Crying Game” and “Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai,” was on the set and unavailable to discuss the incident.
According to Plante, the 51-year-old Whitaker opted not to call the cops about the allegation — in part because the worker was afraid of getting fired.
“Forest asked that, in the future, the store change their behavior and treat the public in a fair and just manner,” she said.
Re: Forest Whitaker Accused Of Shoplifting, Frisked!?
It's logical for a person to quickly peruse a store and leave when there are FIFTY people in there. He probably decided to walk around and see what they had then realized that he wasn't going to wait in line for something that he really didn't want. It happens all the time.
I always thought the suspicious people are the ones that spend an extra long time contemplating in front of a product and look around suspiciously.