Former tennis star James Blake was tackled Wednesday and detained by five NYPD officers who mistook him for a suspect in an identity theft ring.
Blake told the New York Daily News that he suffered cuts and bruises when he was forcefully slammed to the ground and handcuffed outside his Manhattan hotel, just as he was leaving for the U.S. Open.
“It was definitely scary and definitely crazy,” Blake told the paper.
An NYPD spokesman told The Huffington Post that detectives were investigating fraudulent purchases of cell phones at the Grand Hyatt in midtown. They set up a sting operation to see who the phones — purchased on a stolen credit card — were being delivered to.
The NYPD says the delivery man fingered Blake as one of the suspects he’d previously delivered phones to, and that’s when the officers charged. After detaining Blake for about 15 minutes at around noon, officers checked his ID, realized their mistake and let him go.
“Today James Blake was detained by police in midtown Manhattan in regards to an ongoing investigation into fraudulently purchased cell phones, after being misidentified by a cooperating witness,” the spokesman said. “Once Blake was properly identified and found to have no connection to the investigation, he was released from police custody immediately. In regards to the alleged improper use of force, the Police Commissioner directed the internal affairs bureau to investigate.”
Asked if this could be a case of racial profiling, Blake told the 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. 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.”
He said he wants the officers to face some sort of punishment “so they know it’s not okay to go out there and do this again tomorrow.”
A contact listed on Blake’s website said the tennis star would likely be making a public announcement on Thursday, but declined further comment.