CLEARWATER — Both the barber and his customer agree that their Saturday altercation started over price haggling, but the two tell different stories about what happened next.
Raymond M. Stewart, 36, who owns Trend Citi Fades, was arrested Sunday on a charge of felony battery after, police said, he attacked a customer who wanted a deal on two haircuts.
But Stewart said Monday that he never attacked anyone and that it was his customer, 25-year-old Quazi Rahman, who was out of control.
According to the Clearwater police arrest report, Stewart put Rahman in a headlock and punched him in the face and head after the pricing argument.
Rahman said Monday that he and a friend went to Stewart's barbershop to get their hair cut about 2 p.m. Saturday. Rahman said he's a regular customer who has been coming to the shop about twice a month for the last six months.
Before any cutting took place, Rahman asked Stewart if he would cut both men's hair for $20 and he would pay him the rest later. When Stewart said no, Rahman told him he would find a new barber, Rahman said.
That's when Stewart got angry and began punching him, Rahman said, adding that his friend intervened.
Rahman said the attack left him with a bloodied face and a black eye.
"I'm never going back there," he said.
But Stewart said that's not what happened and that both the police and Rahman have their facts wrong.
Stewart said Rahman had been in only three or so times and that he generally charged him $15 for a haircut. When Rahman came in with his friend and asked that Stewart give them both haircuts for $20 total, Stewart said he couldn't do it.
Rahman then cursed him and Stewart asked him to leave, Stewart said Monday. Rahman went outside and started banging on the glass front window and door, Stewart said. When Stewart went outside to confront Rahman, "He grabs me by my shirt, starts cursing and starts to swing on me," Stewart said.
Stewart said he never hit Rahman. Rahman's nose was bloodied by his own hand as Stewart struggled to get the man off of him, Stewart said.
"I was defending myself and trying to get him away from me," he said.
Stewart acknowledged he has previously been arrested for battery. In 2001, he was sentenced to a year in jail with four years' probation on a 1999 felony battery charge.
Today, he said he's a hardworking businessman trying to make a go of his 8-month-old barbershop.
"You don't know what I have been through to make sure nothing like this affects my environment," he said.
Stewart said he has witnesses that have not yet been interviewed by police. The incident happened closer to 12:30 p.m., Stewart said, and the police report lists the wrong address. Stewart's business is at 1421 S Missouri Ave., Suite A, but the report lists 1358 S Missouri Ave., which houses another, unrelated barbershop.
Stewart was released from the Pinellas County Jail on Sunday night after posting $10,000 bail.
Stewart said he fears the arrest could damage his business and more importantly, his reputation.
"The only thing I have to stand on is my credibility," he said.