A South Carolina barber was arrested for pulling a gun on a customer after he told him he refused to cut “black hair.”
The barber told customer Arthur Hill, who is black, “that he does not cut black hair,” according to a York County Sheriff’s Office report, via the Washington Post.
Hill asked the barber what he was trying to say, and he then saw a .38 snub-nose revolver in his right hand.
The barber, identified as Larry Thomas, was arrested and charged with pointing and presenting a firearm at a person. He could face as many as five years in prison if he is convicted.
“I was shocked, I was shocked for my life, because I’m thinking that could’ve been me laying on the floor dead,” Hill told NBC affiliate WCNC.
“He did not point it at me, but it was clear in sight like he meant business.”
Thomas says his guns are kept in a shed behind the shop. The handguns in the shed matched a description Hill provided to investigators.
Thomas said he felt threatened.
“I always have a gun right here,” Thomas told WCNC, tapping his cabinet. “But I felt threatened because that man came walking back here to where I was, I felt threatened and I picked up the gun and I had it here by my side.”
“I told him I did not do black hair and he kept coming towards me and I stepped back here and I always keep a gun right here and I just picked up my gun and put my gun at my side,” Thomas told WBTV. “That’s when he got into my face and said ‘You meant African American now, didn’t you?'”
— Coleen Harry WBTV (@ColeenHarryWBTV) May 11, 2016
Thomas, who said he is autistic, said he isn’t racist.
“I don’t do flat tops. White people wear flat tops. I no longer cut women’s hair because I’m not good enough to cut women’s hair anymore. The only thing I do is I stick with my middle-age group of men,” Thomas said.
“I’m just not good enough to do black hair cutting at all. Being an autistic individual, I pretty much stick to my routine,” he told The Associated Press.
He explained to the New York Daily News that he simply doesn’t know how to cut the hair of black people.
“I was educated here in 1964, it was very segregated—we weren’t told how to do black hair,” said Thomas, 65. He said he’s been a barber for 51 years.
“There’s a preciseness of it—the guys who cut black hair are real artists.”
Google reviews say that Thomas has shown his gun off in the shop before, while also being discriminating.
“No one with any sense should get their hair cut here,” one review from last week read, adding that Thomas is “easily threatened, and thinks nothing of brandishing a gun.”
Another added: “The owner is extremely discriminating towards disabled people. My uncle has disabilities and went in for a hair cut. Immediately, the shop owner refused to cut his hair. He stated that my uncle was to go somewhere else, because he would not be cutting his [expletive] hair.”