Authorities in Barnstable have launched an investigation after a video circulated online of local businessman John C. Shea allegedly threatening and directing a racist slur at a man of color, law enforcement officials said Tuesday.
Cape and Islands District Attorney Robert J. Galibois’s office said in a statement that Barnstable police and prosecutors are “investigating a matter widely reported by media outlets and on social media platforms involving the proprietor of a local business known as Trader Ed’s.”
“The Barnstable Police Department and the Cape & Islands District Attorney’s Office acknowledge the community’s interest in pursuing this matter and will provide an update [upon] the conclusion of the investigation,” prosecutors said.
The statement did not name Shea and he hasn’t been charged with any crimes in connection with the interaction.
According to town records, Shea has been the general manager of Trader Ed’s since at least August 2020, when the restaurant owner, Wayne G. Kurker, reported Shea’s hiring to the town’s licensing board. Steven Pizzuti, an attorney for Kurker, told the board that Shea had an “impeccable track record” in the food and beverage industry for the previous 30 years, according to board minutes.
Shea, who attended the hearing, also had a management contract to operate the bar through a company called East Bay Management Inc., according to town records. Shea is listed as the sole officer for the company in state records.
Shea and a lawyer who previously represented him in court could not be reached for comment.
In a cellphone video taken by Medford resident Millyan Phillips, in Hyannis, Shea can clearly be heard calling Phillips a racist epithet before walking away and claiming he called him a “nice guy.”
In an interview, Phillips said he, his girlfriend, and a friend were at Trader Ed’s last Wednesday night when a man, who they later learned was Shea, entered.
“He comes into the bar, stumbling, sits down at the bar and asks — did not ask, demands — that the bartender make him a vodka and soda,” Phillips, 24, said.
He said he, his girlfriend, and their friend left the restaurant and noticed Shea had parked his Jeep out front with the engine running.
“We were like, ‘this guy is way too drunk to be driving,’ ” Phillips said. “We [called] 911 just to ensure his safety.”
Phillips said he called 911 at 10:18 p.m. and told a dispatcher what he had seen. They then went to emBargo, another bar in Hyannis, where he noticed the same Jeep parked outside.
Phillips said he took a video of Shea talking with someone inside the bar.
Phillips said that as they were leaving, an older woman fell on the sidewalk near the bar, drawing about six police officers to the scene.
He said he approached the officers and told them the suspected drunk driver he had called 911 about was inside and that his car was parked directly outside. An officer acknowledged the information but no officer took any action toward Shea, according to Phillips.
While he waited for a Lyft ride, Shea emerged and demanded to speak with the “monkey from Boston with a scar on his face,” Phillips said. Shea then called him a racist epithet and, standing face to face with Phillips, ordered him to get out of town.
Shea stepped on Phillips’s right foot, the video shows. The men then separate but Shea is seen circling back towards Phillips and leaning into his right ear.
”You’re an [expletive] [racist epithet],” Shea can clearly be heard saying.
But as he steps away, Shea smiles and says he just called Phillips a “nice guy.”
Phillips shared the video online and it circulated widely. Phillips also contacted the media, including the Globe, to share his account of what happened.
According to Phillips, Shea also threatened to shoot him in the head with a shotgun.
After he shared his video on social media and was the subject of a story by WCVB-TV, Phillips said he was contacted Monday by a Barnstable detective, who told him they were investigating a possible hate crime charge.
Jeremiah Manion of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.