Former tennis star James Blake handcuffed by NYPD in Midtown in arrest mix-up

Thursday, September 10, 2015
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Rob Nelson has the story

NEW YORK (WABC) -- NYPD Commissioner William Bratton spoke on the phone with James Blake Thursday and apologized after the former tennis star was handcuffed in Midtown Manhattan in an apparent mix-up Wednesday morning.

"I spoke to Mr. Blake a short time ago and personally apologized for yesterday's incident," said Bratton in a statement. "Mr. Blake indicated he would be willing to meet with the Internal Affairs Bureau as our investigation continues. Additionally, he said he would be returning the Mayor's earlier phone call to speak to him. Mr. Blake said he would like to meet with the Mayor and me at a future date, which we would be agreeable to."

Blake, once the fourth-ranked player in the world, is fuming over his treatment by New York's Finest as he waited in front of his Midtown hotel for a courtesy car to take him to the U.S. Open.

"It shouldn't have happened," said Blake.

Blake said a plain-clothes cop slammed him to the ground in front of the Grand Hyatt on 42nd Street and then handcuffed him, believing he was a suspect in an identity theft case, but he was not. More than 15 minutes later, police sources said a passing retired detective recognized Blake, and told the officers they had the wrong guy.

"It's just something that we'll deal with, with the police, and we'll find out what they have to say internally, hopefully there's video of it and people can see what happened," Blake said. Police "just rushed me."

James accepted Bratton's apology, but said he will not be satisfied until the officers are held appropriately accountable and there is a commitment from the city to make a meaningful financial investment into supporting communities that are affected by these types of incidents. He said he would also like to see a financial investment into protecting the public from excessive police abuse.

The New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board, the independent agency that investigates alleged police misconduct, is now investigating the incident. The NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau referred the case to CCRB Thursday afternoon.

In a statement issued late Wednesday, the NYPD said, "subsequent to Internal Affairs investigators viewing surveillance video of the incident at the Hyatt Hotel on Wednesday, September 9, involving James Blake, one officer has been placed on modified assignment. The investigation is ongoing."

"Just the nature, what he described is not what we do, it's not what we're supposed to do," Bratton said.

Bratton said the "modified assignment" is desk duty. He demanded an investigation as soon as he got word of the incident Wednesday. He explained that the officers had been investigating a case of fraudulently purchased cellphones, when an informant pointed out Blake and at least one other man as a suspect.

Bratton also said the suspect they were looking for "looks like the twin brother of Mr. Blake."

"Race has nothing to do with this," Bratton said.

"So we will very aggressively address it, that I will not tolerate any type of excessive use of force on the part of my police, but it's always, you have that saying 'the first story is never the last story', so we'll wait and see what we get for facts and circumstances and hopefully video," Bratton said.

During a news conference at police headquarters Thursday morning, Bratton publicly apologized to Blake.

"I will be very interested as well as the mayor, to talk with him, to extend my apologies for the incident in which he found himself," said Bratton.

The commissioner, who has seen video of the incident, says he is questioning why so much force was used, and why police didn't even report the arrest.

The Harvard-educated former tennis star said he suffered a cut on his elbow and bruises to his leg. He claims cops only identified themselves after he was face down on the pavement.

Wednesday night, Blake told Eyewitness News what he wanted out of this incident.

"What would you like to hear from them?" Eyewitness News asked.

"An apology," Blake said.

Keep checking abc7NY for the latest on this developing story.