The New York Police Department released video on Thursday showing a plainclothes officer tackling retired tennis star James Blake outside a Manhattan hotel.
The officer — later identified by the New York Post as James Frascatore — mistook Blake for a suspect in a credit card fraud scheme. The former tennis pro was waiting for a car to head to the U.S. Open outside the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Midtown Manhattan when the officer sprinted at him, grabbed, him, pushed him against a column, then tackled him to the ground.
At no point in the video of the incident does Blake appear to resist.
In a statement released Friday, Blake said: "I know what happened to me is not uncommon."
NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio each made phone calls to Blake on Thursday to apologize for the incident, which Blake said he "greatly appreciate[s]."
"But extending courtesy to a public figure mistreated by the police is not enough," Blake said in his statement. "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 suggested to the commissioner that the City of New York "make a significant financial commitment to improving the relationship particularly in those neighborhoods where incidents of the type I experienced occur all too frequently."
De Blasio and Bratton also issued a joint statement Friday, stating an investigation would look at "what contributed to the errors made" and pointing out that thousands of officers have been retrained to improve community relationships.
"This Administration takes the mission of bringing the police and the community closer together very seriously," the statement read. "It's why we have invested in new technology and developed new strategies that feature the most focused neighborhood policing efforts ever applied in a major city."
According to the statement, complaints to the department's Civilian Complaint Review Board are down to the lowest levels in 14 years, and the administration "will continue to vigorously implement these reforms that build trust and respect between police officers and the people they serve."
"And we both stand ready to meet with Mr. Blake to further discuss these issues and initiatives."
The above video shows that the detective grabbed Blake to throw him to the ground as soon as he approached him. In comments to the New York Daily News, Blake said he saw the man running at him, but thought he might have been an old friend from Harvard.
Blake was held on the ground in handcuffs for approximately 15 minutes before being let go upon showing his ID and U.S. Open credentials.
The NYPD opened an internal disciplinary investigation into the incident immediately. On Thursday, the department announced that the officer who threw Blake to the ground had been stripped of his gun and placed on desk duty.
The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, the union that represents New York's rank-and-file officers, said in a statement it opposed the quick move to modify the cop's assignment. They issued a second statement Friday, standing by the officer:
"The police officer was apprehending what he had every reason to believe was an individual who had just committed a crime. The apprehension was made under fluid circumstances where the subject might have fled and the officer did a professional job of bringing the individual to the ground to prevent that occurrence. It is truly unfortunate that the arrest was a result of mistaken identity by the complainant in the case and we regret any embarrassment or injury suffered by Mr. Blake as a result."
During a press conference Thursday, Bratton said "the use of force was such that I'm comfortable that it's in the best interest of the department to place the officer on modified assignment as the investigation moves forward."
Frascatore, the officer who reportedly tackled Blake, has been with the NYPD for four years. He is a defendant in two pending federal civil rights lawsuits alleging he used excessive force against members of racial minorities.
The first complaint alleges that Frascatore and other officers stopped a black man named Warren Diggs in January of 2013 while he was riding his bike in Queens.
The complaint states that Frascatore and other officers asked Diggs for identification, only to attack him when he tried to open the door of his home to get it. One of the officers allegedly hit Diggs in the head, which caused him to become lightheaded and fall to the ground, where the officers allegedly kicked him.
Charges against Diggs were eventually dropped, but not before the officers allegedly entered his home without a warrant and questioned his children. When Diggs' girlfriend asked the officers for their badge numbers, they allegedly refused. Blake has said that Frascatore also refused to identify himself after he tackled him.
The second complaint alleges that Frascatore and several other officers used excessive force while arresting a man named Stefon Luckey in Queens in 2013. Court papers state that Frascatore and his colleagues stopped Luckey for no reason, only to punch him and douse him with pepper spray while calling him "racial and derogatory epithets" inside a deli. The incident was captured by the store's security cameras.
The lawsuit goes on to allege that the cops then continued to punch Luckey in the stomach after he was handcuffed and restrained. The officers then allegedly confiscated $200 in cash from Luckey that they never returned. Luckey was eventually released from custody without charges.
Frascatore has also been investigated five times by the Civilian Complaint and Review Board, according to an investigation by the WNYC radio station.
The number listed for Frascatore was not answered on Friday.
Lindsey Adler is a sports reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Lindsey Adler at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nicolás Medina Mora is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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