SEATTLE — A Seattle business owner is trying to clear his name after he was mistaken for a man in a racially charged viral video, leading him to receive hundreds of calls, messages and even death threats.
On Sunday morning, as he does most mornings, Dean Worthy went online to check on his home improvement business’ Yelp review page.
Typically, he opens the page and is greeted by dozens of five-star reviews and happy customers. What he saw Sunday left him in shock.
“I was just blown away with all of these incoming messages that were horrible, horrible messages about what a bad person I am and a racist and all this other stuff, and I was like, ‘What, this isn’t me what’s going on here?’” said Dean Worthy.
The page had received hundreds of one-star reviews, alongside comments claiming he was a racist, alerting others not to give him their business.
As the morning went on, things got worse.
By the time KIRO-7 spoke with Dean around noon, he said he had received more than 400 phone calls, more negative reviews, and even death threats.
“It’s so much worse than just destroying the business, I mean yes that’s horrible, but it’s even worse we’re getting death threats,” Worthy explained. “We’re having people say, ‘we got you, watch what’s coming bro, we got you, it’s coming, we’re coming for you,’ and they’ve got my address because it’s listed on my business page.”
“Help, it’s not me,” Worthy continued.
The heap of hate stemmed from a viral video that captured the aftermath of an encounter between a Black man, Karlos Dillard, and an older white man.
Dillard said he was on a date at an Edmond’s restaurant Saturday when the white man approached him, saying they needed to pay for their drinks.
He put the video on TikTok, from there, the internet took over. Some, identifying the man in the video as Dean.
Dillard said a woman sent him a message, identifying the man as Dean. Then, another social media creator posted a video which showed a short portion of Dillard’s original video, alongside a photo of Dean that had been taken off of his Yelp page.
“I reposted that second creator’s video like, ‘Is this the guy?’ and then everyone’s like, ‘Yeah that’s him, that’s him, we all saw it, that’s him!’” Dillard explained.
The thing is it was not Dean.
“It’s like identity theft on steroids, it’s worse than that because they’re killing my business and threatening to kill me,” Worthy said.
Karlos received a message Sunday morning from a friend of Deans, letting him know they had the wrong guy. Then, Karlos received a call from KIRO-7. After sending him a clip of the footage from our interview with Dean, he realized it was a different man.
“It wasn’t Dean, I was like, ‘oh gosh, that’s not him,’” Dillard said.
Dean admits they do look similar, however, there is one key difference – thick facial hair that could not be grown in a day.
“I’ve had this for 35 years, 35 years it hasn’t changed, so it’s not me,” Worthy said as he pointed to his facial hair.
Now, Dean is doing damage control. He is responding to messages and calls, and trying to contact Yelp to dispute the reviews.
“We’re scrambling, we’re desperate, we’re hurting, I’ve had the hardest day of my entire life and we’re trying to fix it,” Worthy said.
“I may have to shut my business down if we can’t fix this because I can’t operate with that kind of stuff out there, nobody’s going to want me for work,” he continued.
Karlos said his TikTok account was flagged when his video went viral. He said the platform put a one day hold on his account and he plans to post a new video tomorrow and has already left a comment on the original video, asking his followers to take down their negative reviews
While Karlos is doing what he can, he fears the focus is in the wrong place.
“The root of the issue was I was unfairly treated at this restaurant, the internet got the wrong person, but we do need the internet to seek out people like this because I didn’t get any justice and I wasn’t going to get any justice, and it’s just unfortunate that it was the wrong person,” Dillard said.
Since word has gotten out that Dean was not actually the man in the video, a few people have left five-star reviews on his Yelp page to try and give his business a boost. Still, it has not been enough to undo the damage caused by 17-pages of one-star reviews claiming racism.
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