James Blake Wants to Turn Mistaken Arrest Into ‘a Positive’ – Wall Street Journal
On Wednesday, retired tennis star James Blake was waiting for a courtesy car in front of a Midtown Manhattan hotel when he was tackled and cuffed by an undercover police officer in a botched credit-card-fraud sting. Three days later, he said he has a mission.
“I want to talk about putting a significant amount of money into a fund for other victims of this,” Mr. Blake said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal on Saturday. “I want to start talking about other ideas, about ways that we can make progress and make sure that this doesn’t happen again, whether it be training methods, whether it be cameras.”
Mr. Blake, 35 years old, added: “It’s probably unrealistic to say it will never happen again, but if it happens 1,000 times in a year, let’s get it down to 900. Then let’s get it down to 800. Let’s make progress.”
Mr. Blake spoke at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Midtown, where he had set up interviews with various national media the day after surveillance footage from his mistaken arrest was released. He said the New York Police Department officer who tackled him should be removed from the force.
“First things first is: I want accountability,” Mr. Blake said. “In my opinion, nothing less than taking his badge and gun away for good.”
The officer, identified by a law-enforcement official as James Frascatore, 38, a four-year veteran of the NYPD, has been placed on modified duty as the NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau investigates the incident.
Officer Frascatore has had four complaints filed against him with the Civilian Complaint Review Board, the independent city agency that investigates police misconduct, according to a law-enforcement official. Three of the complaints weren’t substantiated, while another was partially substantiated, the official said.
Video of the incident shows Mr. Blake, who is biracial, standing against a pillar outside the Grand Hyatt hotel near Grand Central Terminal when the undercover officer charges him and brings him to the ground. Mr. Blake said the officer never identified himself. Mr. Blake was released about 15 minutes later when a former police officer at the hotel recognized the retired tennis player and told police.
Mr. Blake said he initially thought the charging man must have been an old friend, perhaps someone running to give him a hug.
He said the incident “could have been a lot worse” if he had resisted.
“I think about how lucky I am,” Mr. Blake said. “What it looked like to me, that guy came in with an agenda, he was there to tackle me, to have some sort of a violent altercation and that to me signals that if I were to have resisted or done anything, he was looking to be more violent.”
Mr. Blake said he didn’t view the incident as an instance of racial profiling.
“I think to talk about it in this incident would diminish what it’s really about, which is the brutality, which is the excessive force, especially for someone that is suspected as a nonviolent criminal and showing no danger,” Mr. Blake said. “There’s no need for what transpired even if I was the criminal or the suspect.”
Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, which represents police officers, defended the officer’s conduct in a statement, saying the officer had “every reason to believe” he was apprehending someone who committed a crime and might flee.
“The officer did a professional job of bringing the individual to the ground to prevent that occurrence,” he said.
Mr. Lynch said the union regrets “any embarrassment or injury suffered by Mr. Blake” because of the mistaken identity.
Mr. Blake’s attorney, Kevin Marino of Marino, Tortorella & Boyle, P.C., said his client would like a meeting with Commissioner Bratton “sooner rather than later” to discuss the investment and how it could be used to improve police training and community relations.
“Lots of folks in James Blake’s situation would say, ‘You know, I’m in a position to win money damages for myself,’” Mr. Marino said. “It’s not where he’s coming from at all. He’s very much coming from a place of, ‘I’m going to turn this negative to a positive.’”
Mr. Blake returned to the U.S. Open on Friday evening, where he watched Roger Federer beat Stan Wawrinka in the men’s semifinals in Arthur Ashe Stadium. When Mr. Blake was shown on the stadium’s video screens, the crowd gave him a long and loud ovation. Mr. Blake stood up and acknowledged them.
“It was really special to know that those people were cheering for me and giving me support,” Mr. Blake said. “It really makes me feel good and makes me feel like I’m doing the right thing.”
—Mark Morales contributed to this article.