By Sheryl Estrada
James Blake is pictured on the left. NYPD officers were looking for the person on the right when they arrested Blake. However, the person pictured is actually not the correct culprit. Photo from TMZ Sports.
Waiting outside of the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Midtown Manhattan to be transported to Flushing, Queens, N.Y., for the U.S. Open on Wednesday, former tennis star James Blake was tackled and slammed to the ground by plain-clothed New York Police Department officer James Frascatore.
NYPD Police Commissioner William J. Brattonsaid it was a case of mistaken identity. Blake, who is biracial, was thought to be a suspect in a fraudulent credit card ring. According to the New York Times,a team of officers looking for suspects “were relying on a courier who identified Mr. Blake as one of the buyers, the police said. The officers also had an Instagram photo of someone believed to be involved.”
It turns out the photo is of an innocent manrather than the actual suspect.
Blake, who was once ranked No. 4 in the world in tennis, said he suffered cuts to his left elbow and bruises to his right knee as well as humiliation. Frascatore body-slammed him and other police officers in plainclothes, who did not formally identify themselves, pushed him around. Blake was then handcuffed for 15 minutes.
Friday afternoon, the NYPD released video of the incident:
“I was standing there, just waiting, minding my own business,” Blake said on Good Morning America on Thursday. “I saw someone coming from the street running directly at me He picked me up and body slammed me. He put me on the ground, told me to turn over and shut my mouth and put the cuffs on me.”
In December, as part of a series of police misconduct, WNYC reported that in 2013, Frascatore, who has been with the NYPD for four years, was named in five civilian complaints during one seven-month period:
The Civilian Complaint Review Board said Frascatore made false statements under oath in that case, and referred the matter to the NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau, records show.
WNYC reported the NYPD declined to comment for that story.
As a result of the incident with Blake, Frascatore has been placed on desk duty and aninternal investigation will take place. When racial profiling was mentioned, Bratton was adamant that race was not a factor in Blake’s mistaken arrest.
“Sorry, race has nothing at all to do with this. If you look at the photograph of the suspect it looks like the twin brother of Mr. Blake,” Bratton said on CNN.
The real suspects are British citizens James Short, 27, and Jarmaine Grey, 26. They have been apprehended and forced to surrender their passports and are currently being held on bail for $50,000 each.
Blake said he believes his mistaken arrest was a case of excessive use of force rather than racial profiling. He did infer that the recent police-related deaths around the country caused him to make the cop feel unthreatened.
“Out of reaction from what I’ve seen in the media,” Blake explained on GMA, “I didn’t want any sort of miscommunication. Those were the first words out of my mouth. I’m going to 100 percent cooperate.”
In the past year,police-relateddeaths of unarmed Black males have garnered national attention, including the cases ofEric Garnerin Staten Island, N.Y.;Michael Brownin Ferguson, Mo.; Tamir Ricein Cleveland, Ohio;Walter Scottin North Charleston, S.C.;Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Md.; and Samuel DuBose in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Blake said he feels “lucky” that he didn’t resist and happy that his reaction was to smile at the officer, “because I could see if I put my arms up or anything, it could be a sign of showing some sort of resistance. Instead of having a little bruise on my leg, I may have some broken bones or some actual injuries because it didn’t seem like he was slowing down.”
On Thursday, Bratton issued a statement apologizing to Blake:
I spoke to Mr. Blake a short time ago and personally apologized for yesterday’s incident. Mr. Blake indicated he would be willing to meet with the Internal Affairs Bureau as our investigation continues. Additionally, he said he would be returning the Mayor’s earlier phone call to speak to him. Mr. Blake said he would like to meet with the Mayor and me at a future date, which we would be agreeable to.
“I think I’m going to hopefully let people know that some [police officers] need to be held accountable and these that are doing police work the wrong way need to pay for those actions and be shown either the door or whatever they need to do to punish them,” Blake said on GMA.