“She’s not trying to make any racial statement,” Ms. Ghatan said. “She’s a female herself of mixed cultural descent. She’s not some blond-haired, blue eyed privileged white lady. She literally just wanted to get her phone back.”
Ms. Ponsetto, who works in an office for a health-related company, was visiting her father who lives in the New York City area over the holidays when she lost her cellphone, Ms. Ghatan said. Ms. Ponsetto was a guest at the hotel at some point during the holiday week, Ms. Ghatan said, but it was not clear why she was there when the confrontation took place.
Ms. Ponsetto saw Keyon Jr. with a phone and thought it was hers, according to Ms. Ghatan.
“What happened, happened,” Ms. Ghatan said. “Would she do it again? No. It was purely out of her being anxious, stressed, cornered, feeling helpless, lost, alone, unsupported.”
In the CBS interview, Ms. Ponsetto first said that she had been “approaching the people that had been exiting the hotel” because she thought anyone leaving the premises could have been the one who had stolen her phone.
When pressed, she acknowledged that she had not stopped everyone she had seen, but she did not explain why she singled out Keyon Jr.
Mr. Harrold said Ms. Ponsetto’s actions demanded more than an apology. He said that both her behavior and the hotel manager’s actions reflected a systemic problem where Black people — and Black teenagers in particular — are seen as threats or outsiders.
Mr. Harrold described his son as innocent and impressionable — “an aspiring music producer, drummer, artist, who loves being around his friends.” But, he said, he is too often not seen that way. “He’s made out to be criminal. He’s made out to be a threat. That’s the thing that needs to change.”