Retired tennis player James Blake was handcuffed and slammed to the ground by multiple police officers Wednesday while on his way to U.S. Open action in New York City.
According to Wayne Coffey of the New York Daily News, Blake was approached by five white police officers wearing plain clothes, who mistook him for the operator of an identity-theft ring. Blake suffered superficial wounds, and the officers released him once they realized they had made a mistake.
Blake discussed the incident on Good Morning America on Thursday, saying: "At no time did he let me know he was a police officer ... didn't have a badge."
Blake said he offered to show his U.S. Open credential, adding "Five or ten minutes in, I admitted, 'I'm scared.'"
On Sept. 11, Ryan Ruggiero of CNBC shared video of the incident:
The NYPD police union released a statement on the incident on Sept. 15, per Polly Mosendz of Newsday:
When asked, he refused to say whether he was a victim of racial profiling.
"I don't know if it's as simple as that," Blake told the New York Daily News (h/t ABCNews.com). "To me it's as simple as unnecessary police force, no matter what my race is. In my mind there's probably a race factor involved, but no matter what, there's no reason for anybody to do that to anybody."
Blake said an officer—who was not wearing a badge—ran up to him outside his hotel and tackled him to the ground without offering an explanation. The first officer was later joined by four additional officers. Blake was told witnesses tipped them off, saying he was the perpetrator of the alleged scheme.
"You'd think they could say, 'Hey, we want to talk to you. We are looking into something,'" Blake said in Coffey's report. "I was just standing there. I wasn't running. It's not even close [to being OK]. It's blatantly unnecessary. You would think at some point they would get the memo that this isn't OK, but it seems that there's no stopping it."
After the incident, the USTA released a statement on Blake's treatment, via Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv: "The USTA is deeply concerned about this troubling incident. James is the embodiment of a model citizen whose triumphs on and off the court continue to inspire tennis fans and non-fans alike. We will continue to offer our support to James in any way we can as this investigation unfolds."
Police Commissioner William J. Bratton said Blake "has a right to be upset about it," in an interview on NY1, according to Liz Robbins and Al Baker of the New York Times.
"We will very aggressively address it," Bratton said. "I will not tolerate any type of excessive use of force on the part of my police. But as always, and we have that saying, 'The first story is never the last story,' so we'll wait and see what we get for facts and circumstances and, hopefully, video."
Bratton added internal affairs officers have identified "a number of witnesses," according to Brynn Gingras of MSNBC.
Blake said on Good Morning America he wanted an apology, adding: "We all need to be held accountable for our actions, police as well."
On Sept. 10, Bratton said NYPD had been trying to apologize to Blake for the incident and to have him come talk to their internal affairs division, but the former tennis star hadn't responded to messages, according to the Associated Press. Bratton also noted he and mayor Bill de Blasio both wanted to apologize, according to ESPN.com.
Robbins and Baker noted a source said the officer is expected to be placed on a modified assignment as soon as Thursday.
Blake was released from custody after "about 15 minutes," per Coffey, and made his scheduled appearance at Wednesday's U.S. Open matches. He is requesting an apology from the NYPD and a reprimand of the officers involved.
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