Mistaken identity by law enforcement is a traumatic experience that has impacted countless lives across the globe.
Most recently, actor Ving Rhames recounted a July 2016 encounter when Los Angeles police held him at gunpoint at his Santa Monica, California home. The actor recalled on Sirius XM’s The Clay Cane Show that a female neighbor had called authorities to report a “large black man was breaking into the house.”
Unfortunately, Rhames’ incident is one of many that have taken place through the years. Here are five additional incidents where black celebrities and athletes have raised awareness after being mistaken for criminals.
In March 2017, Wyclef Jean went viral with his arrest in Los Angeles after sheriff deputies pulled his vehicle over, claiming it matched the description of a burglar suspect’s vehicle. According to the Grammy Award-winner, he was in the studio during the time of the alleged crime. “LAPD another case of mistaken identity,” Jean wrote on his Twitter account. “Black man with red bandana robbed a gas station as I was in the studio working but im in handcuffs? I was asked by the police to Put my hands up. Then I was told do not move. I was instantly handcuffed before being asked to identify myself.” After being detained for six minutes, the Los Angeles sheriff’s department later issued an apology to Jean.
Following 2017’s marquee boxing match between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor, Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Michael Bennett was mistakenly detained outside of a Las Vegas nightclub. According to reports, police were in search of an active shooter, however Bennett accused the officers of racial profiling and using excessive force while pointing guns at him. The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department later conducted an internal investigation and found “no evidence” that officers used excessive force, and that they had reasonable suspicion to detain Bennett.
Bennett later issued a response to critics who questioned his account of the incident. “People are entitled to their position and what they believe in, no matter what happened,” he said to ESPN. “So at the end of the day, there’s going to be people who believe me and people who don’t believe me, and my ultimate goal is not to make everybody believe me or make everybody happy, it’s just about me being able to sleep at night and continuously speak upon what happened to me personally.”
Actor Daniel Kaluuya once sued London police for “loss of liberty, personal injury, damage and humiliation” following an 2010 assault and false imprisonment after authorities accused him of being a drug dealer. According to London newspaper, Metro, the incident took place after four police officers removed Kuluuya off of a bus soon after boarding. Authorities said he matched the description of someone “acting suspiciously in the area.”
In legal documents obtained by Metro, Kuluuya claimed police failed to read him his rights, and pulled down his pants, before holding him at a police station cell for four hours where he was strip-searched. The document also added that the “Get Out” star was later treated by his general practitioner for internal bruising to his ribs, chest and back after the arrest.
In 2015, retired professional tennis player James Blake was tackled outside a Manhattan hotel by New York police officers who mistook him for a suspect in an identity theft ring. Immediately following the incident, NYPD Police Commissioner William Bratton issued an apology saying it “should not have happened” and that he didn’t believe “race was a factor.” As for his thoughts on if the incident was racially-motivated, Blake told the New York Daily News, “I don’t know if it’s as simple as that. To me it’s as simple as unnecessary police force, no matter what my race is,” he said. “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.” The officer, James Frascatore was later found guilty of excessive force following a departmental trial, according to ESPN.
A casual stroll to a local California Apple store in early June resulted in Darris Love being jumped, held at gunpoint and arrested by a group of officers with their guns drawn. According to the Los Angeles Times, authorities mistook him for a burglary suspect who led Glendale, California police on a car chase. The incident reminded Love of his reluctance to portray negative images on-screen. “I never wanted to play the negative gangster roles cause why perpetuate stereotypes that leaves the black male looking as a suspect,” Love said to NBC Los Angeles. “And that’s why the I Am Not a Suspect campaign is very big. We are going to kill the negative stereotypes, and negative narratives and perceptions of us with your help.”