N.Y. police release video of ex-tennis star James Blake's mistaken arrest

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 11, 2015 4:19 PM

By Daniel Bases

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The New York City Police Department on Friday released a security camera video showing ex-tennis star James Blake being tackled, thrown to the ground and handcuffed by an undercover officer in a now infamous case of mistaken identity.

The incident occurred as Blake, formerly the world's fourth-ranked player, was calmly standing by the entrance of a midtown Manhattan hotel, waiting for a car to take him to the U.S. Open.

Blake, 35, standing alone by the entrance of the Grand Hyatt hotel on 42nd Street on Sept. 9, was rushed by the officer who gave no warning or identification.

Blake is black while the officer, James Frascatore, is white. The incident revived questions over excessive police force that has reverberated around the country after a series of police killings of unarmed black men.

After giving no resistance to the Frascatore, Blake was handcuffed and led out of the view of the camera. The video was released by the NYPD's Internal Affairs Bureau, which said in a brief statement that they had interviewed Blake and given his lawyers a copy.

"The investigation is still ongoing," NYPD Deputy Commissioner Stephen Davis said in a statement accompanying the video.

Police have said Blake had been mistakenly identified by "a cooperating witness" as being involved in a ring dealing in fraudulently purchased cellphones. They added that allegations of excessive force would be investigated by internal affairs.

The video, one minute in length, shows passersby on the street glancing over at the incident as it unfolded but not stopping. Only one person pauses to tell the officer something has dropped out of his pocket.

Blake, in a statement released through his lawyer Kevin Marino, said he believes the vast majority of police officers are dedicated public servants who operate appropriately, but what happened to him "is not uncommon."

Both NYPD Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and Mayor Bill de Blasio have publicly apologized to Blake. Frascatore was placed on modified assignment. Bratton has questioned the tactics Frascatore used while other media have reported the officer has had five civilian complaints filed against him.

"But extending courtesy to a public figure mistreated by the police is not enough. As I told the Commissioner, I am determined to use my voice to turn this unfortunate incident into a catalyst for change in the relationship between the police and the public they serve," Blake said.

He called upon the city "to make a significant financial commitment" toward improving that relationship.

In a joint statement issued late on Friday, de Blasio and Bratton defended their approach to improving relations between the police and the community, citing nearly $29 million spent on police retraining programs.

"And we are beginning to see results, with complaints to the CCRB (Civilian Complaint Review Board) down to the lowest levels in 14 years," the statement said, adding: "And we both stand ready to meet with Mr. Blake to further discuss these issues and initiatives."

Bratton said he was concerned that no report had been made of Blake's arrest and detention, a violation of department policy.

Blake was released within roughly 15 minutes, but suffered a cut to his left elbow and bruises to his left leg. He was on his way to make a scheduled corporate appearance at the U.S. Open tennis tournament in the borough of Queens.

(Additional reporting by Katy Reilly; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli and Christian Plumb)