James Blake says the New York Police Department should fire the undercover officer who slammed him to the ground outside a New York City hotel last week after the retired tennis star was misidentified as a suspect in a fraudulent credit card ring.
The officer, James Frascatore, has been placed on desk duty in the wake of the incident, which occurred Wednesday on the sidewalk in front of the Grand Hyatt in midtown Manhattan as Blake was waiting for a car to take him to the U.S. Open. In surveillance footage released by the NYPD Friday, Blake is seen being tackled and handcuffed by Frascatore, who was wearing plainclothes and never identified himself as a police officer.
“My initial reaction, being naive, I guess, is this is probably a fan or someone just having fun and giving me a big hug, someone I don’t recognize from high school,” Blake told NBC News. “About three seconds later, I realized it wasn’t someone giving me a friendly hug, that’s for sure.”
According to police, a courier working with the 38-year-old officer misidentified Blake as a suspect. Blake, who was detained for about 10 minutes until responding officers realized their mistake, suffered minor injuries.
“Physically, I’m OK,” he told NBC News Saturday. “The emotional scars are going to take a little more time to heal, because I was embarrassed. I was embarrassed to be handcuffed, in the middle of the day, on 42nd Street.”
The case has put a national spotlight on what critics say are overly aggressive tactics used by NYPD officers.
In a statement, Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, said that Blake’s arrest 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.”
“It was completely unnecessary, whether I was a criminal or not,” he said. “I still don’t think the person they were looking for deserved to be treated the way I was treated. So that is the bigger issue right now, correcting that kind of behavior.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York City Police Commissioner William J. Bratton apologized to Blake, but the former world No. 4 tennis player wants city officials to apologize to others who’ve been treated similarly.
At least seven people accused Frascatore of using excessive force in the past, according to the Times.
“I think there needs to be a public apology to all of them, all of those people who don’t have the same stature I have,” Blake told the newspaper.
“I’m lucky to be in the position I’m in to get a phone call myself from Mayor de Blasio to say I’m sorry, that’s really nice,” he told NBC. “But I’ve also spoken to a lot of people these past few days who have had similar situations happen to them, got emails from people saying it’s happened to them, their brother, their father, their sister — and those are the people that deserve to get apologized to.”
The incident has also renewed the debate over racial profiling. But Blake, who is biracial, doesn’t believe Frascatore, who is white, was targeting him because of his race.
Nonetheless, the 35-year-old Yonkers, N.Y., native, who now lives in San Diego, said he is considering legal action as he calls for reform.
“I don’t think this person should ever have a badge or a gun again,” Blake told the Associated Press. “I don’t think it’s too much to ask.”