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African-American man sues bank, lawyer says he was racially profiled

Published Mar. 30, 2017

CLEARWATER — An African-American man is suing a bank, claiming he was illegally detained. His lawyer attributes the incident to racial profiling.

Hne Yuoh visited the Fifth Third Bank branch at 2710 Gulf-to-Bay Blvd. to deposit money on Dec. 27 when he was locked in a space between the doors connecting the entrance to the lobby, according to the lawsuit. He was later let go after Clearwater police officers determined no crime had occurred.

"It's just so egregious," said Yuoh's Clearwater-based lawyer, Peter Sartes. "This is exactly what racial profiling is."

A spokesman from Fifth Third declined to comment Thursday, saying it was policy not to comment on pending litigation.

The police incident report and lawsuit give this account:

Yuoh, 31, walked into the bank about 9:45 a.m. The bank's metal detector went off, locking him in. Bank employees told responding police officers Yuoh was yelling and refused to empty a box and a bag he was holding. The bank manager also said his account had been closed in 2012.

Several officers positioned themselves around the bank while others spoke to Yuoh from the lobby. He complied with them, putting down the items he was holding.

Yuoh, who Sartes said works as a landscaper, was taken into custody without incident and brought to a police cruiser. He told officers the alarm went off because he had a metal tape measure and small tools in the bag. The box contained chocolates that he planned to leave for the tellers, the lawsuit says.

Authorities determined that no crime had occurred and let Yuoh go.

State records show Yuoh has been arrested about a dozen times since 2006 on misdemeanor charges.

Contact Kathryn Varn at (727) 893-8913 or kvarn@tampabay.com. Follow @kathrynvarn.

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