Investigation launched after former tennis star James Blake accuses NYPD of excessive force

Investigation launched after former tennis star James Blake accuses NYPD of excessive force

Internal affairs detectives are investigating claims by former tennis professional James Blake that he was thrown to the ground and then handcuffed while mistakenly being arrested at a New York hotel.

Blake, who is biracial, told the Daily News he was not sure if he was arrested because of his race but said the officer who put him in handcuffs inappropriately used force.

“To me it’s as simple as unnecessary police force, no matter what my race is,” he told the newspaper.

“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.”

One officer was placed on “modified assignment” after investigators reviewed surveillance footage, New York Police Department said in a statement. It said a probe of the incident was continuing.

A co-operating witness misidentified Blake to detectives investigating fraudulently purchased mobile phones as one of two people he recognised as being involved with the scheme, NYPD spokesman Stephen Davis said.

“Once Blake was properly identified and found to have no connection to the investigation, he was released from police custody immediately,” Mr Davis said in a statement.

Police commissioner Bill Bratton, speaking on the NY1 cable television news station, said Blake “has a right to be upset”, and vowed to aggressively address the allegations.

“It’s very disturbing,” Mr Bratton said. “The nature of what he described is not what we do. It’s not what we’re supposed to do.”

Officers arrested a suspect in the mobile phone scam at the Grand Hyatt New York hotel in Manhattan during a controlled buy earlier, police said. A delivery man with the mobile phone company later pointed out Blake and another man in the hotel lobby as having purchased phones the day before, officers said.

The second man, who Mr Bratton said was standing next to Blake, was taken into custody. A hotel security guard, a former member of the NYPD, recognised Blake, prompting the arresting officers to confirm his identity.

Mr Bratton said internal affairs detectives were sent to the hotel and had already identified several witnesses.

Blake’s last tournament as a professional was the 2013 US Open, where he lost in the first round of singles and doubles.

He was ranked as high as fourth in the world and reached three Grand Slam quarter-finals, including the US Open in 2005 and 2006.

Blake, 35, was born in Yonkers, New York state, and went to high school in Connecticut.

He attended Harvard University before turning pro in 1999.

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