Man arrested after alleged racist tirade over smoothie

·2 min read

Fairfield, Connecticut — A man who allegedly launched a racist tirade in a Robeks store after his son had an allergic reaction to a smoothie was charged with a bias crime and fired by Merrill Lynch. His lawyer denies he's racist.

Fairfield police say James Iannazzo bought the smoothie Sunday and brought it home, where an ambulance was called and his son was taken to a hospital.

According to police, Iannazzo went back to the Robeks a short time later and confronted employees, yelling and demanding to know who made the smoothie. It contained peanuts, which caused his son's allergic reaction.

Officials said when Robeks employees couldn't say, he became irate and started cursing and throwing things at workers. A drink he allegedly threw hit an employee's shoulder, but the worker wasn't hurt.

Police say Iannazzo then commented on one employee's immigration status.

James Iannazzo / Credit: Fairfield, Connecticut Police Department / WFSB-TV
James Iannazzo / Credit: Fairfield, Connecticut Police Department / WFSB-TV

He was asked to leave several times by employees but, police say, kept yelling, and tried to open a door leading to an "Employees Only" area, but it was locked.

According to police, Iannazzo left before they arrived but later turned himself in without incident.

High school student Charli Hill, a Robeks worker, told CBS Hartford affilitate WFSB-TV she took a video of the incident. It went viral.

"He started to call her racial slurs. He threatened to kill us multiple times," Hill said. "I understand and we are sorry on behalf of Robeks for how the smoothie was made, but it gives you absolutely no right to act out like that."

Gianna Miranda said she was the teen who was hit by the smoothie.

"It was kind of scary, I'm not going to lie because I'm like 'I don't know his intention or what he was going to do,'" Miranda said.

Police said Iannazzo told officers he was upset about his son's severe allergic reaction.

According to police, employees reported Iannazzo never mentioned a peanut allergy, but only asked that them not to put peanut butter in the drink.

Iannazzo was charged with intimidation based on bigotry or bias, breach of peace, and criminal trespass.

Merrill Lynch, where Iannazzo was employed, issued a statement to WFSB saying it "does not tolerate behavior of this kind. We immediately investigated and have taken action. This individual is no longer employed at our firm."

Iannazzo's attorney, Frank J. Riccio II, tweeted a statement saying Iannazzo "wholeheartedly regrets" the incident, isn't racist, and was only acting out of parental instinct, anger and fear:

Statement regarding James Iannazzo: pic.twitter.com/VvOKkD96FM

— Frank J. Riccio II (@RiccioLaw) January 23, 2022

Iannazzo is scheduled to be in court early next month.

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