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Owner of popular Cape Cod restaurant accused of using racial slurs during confrontation

Police are investigating the incident where a man, reportedly Trader Ed's owner John Shea, can be heard threatening the life of another man and using a racial slur.

The owner of the popular Cape Cod restaurant Trader Ed’s is under investigation after a video surfaced online of a man using racial slurs and acting aggressively toward another man.

“Barnstable Police Chief Matthew Sonnabend and Cape & Islands District Attorney Robert Galibois announced today that they are investigating a matter widely reported by media outlets and on social media platforms allegedly involving the proprietor of a local business known as Trader Ed’s,” law enforcement officials said in a statement Tuesday. “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 on the conclusion of the investigation.”


In the video, posted to Facebook and circulated on other social media platforms, a man can be seen stepping up close to another man on a sidewalk and saying, “Do you know who I am? Get the (expletive) out of my town … You use my name again, you’ll end up in a grave. You use my name again, you’ll end up in a grave.”

The man making the threats has been identified as Trader Ed’s John Shea by WCVB and The Cape Cod Times.

Later, the man being confronted can be heard asking, “You’re going to call me the N-word?” to which the man, reportedly Shea, replies “I just called you the N-word … Because you act like one.”

At the end of the video, the man identified as Shea can be heard using the racial slur itself.

He can also be seen stepping on the other man’s foot, to which the other man says, “Don’t step on my foot, that’s assault.”

Barnstable Police did not respond to a request for more information Tuesday.

Shea is the owner of Trader Ed’s, a waterfront restaurant on Arlington Street in Hyannis, according to WCVB and a 2016 Dirty Water Media YouTube video. Representatives from the restaurant did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.


Millyan Phillips, a 24-year-old from Medford who identifies as Jamaican and Armenian, told the Times that he was the person confronted.

Phillips and some friends had gone to Trader Ed’s earlier in the evening for dinner and drinks before deciding to take a car service to Embargo, a restaurant on Main Street in Hyannis. Just before their car arrived, Phillips saw Shea walk into Trader Ed’s and order a cocktail, he told the Times. The car Shea had arrived in was still running and was parked sideways, he said. Phillips said that he and his friends called 911 with concerns that Shea could be drinking and driving.

Later in the evening, the group noticed Shea walk into Embargo and order more alcohol, according to the Times. Barnstable Police officers were outside for an unrelated incident, and Phillips reportedly approached them to reiterate concerns about the possibility of Shea driving drunk. 

About 10 minutes later, as Phillips and his friends were waiting for a ride outside Embargo, Shea came out of the restaurant asking, “Where’s (a racist slur) from Boston?” he told the Times. The taped confrontation ensued. 

Phillips told the Times that Embargo bouncers eventually took Shea into the establishment, and police later let him leave via a car service.


“I wanted to press charges but police said none of what Shea said was grounds to do so,” he said.

The Facebook video has more than 130 comments and has been shared more than 80 times. Many of the comments are from outraged people calling for a boycott of Trader Ed’s. As of Tuesday afternoon, community posts on the restaurant’s Yelp page had been disabled. 

“This business recently received increased public attention resulting in an influx of people posting their views to this page,” the notice reads. “While racism has no place on Yelp and we unequivocally reject racism or discrimination in any form, all reviews on Yelp must reflect an actual first-hand consumer experience.”


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