James Blake, tennis pro and former Westporter, wrongly cuffed by NY cops
Published 10:50 am, Thursday, September 10, 2015
Blake was handcuffed by officers Wednesday in what the New York Police Department later said was a case of mistaken identity.
Police Commissioner William J. Bratton said on CNN Thursday morning that race had nothing to do with the arrest, and that Blake closely resembled a suspect in a credit card fraud case whose photo police officers were carrying.
Blake was standing outside his midtown Manhattan hotel when a man dressed in shorts and a T-shirt came running up to him, according to his mother, Betty Blake, who had spoken to her son about the incident.
“He thought it was one of his high school friends, but then he was slammed to the ground and handcuffed,” said Betty Blake, who lives in Fairfield.
Once on the ground Blake told police, “Do whatever you want to me, but tell me what this is about,” his mother related.
“It was definitely scary and definitely crazy," James Blake told the Daily News of New York.
Blake, 35, who is biracial, also told the Daily News that he wasn’t 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.”
Blake was reportedly on his way to watch the U.S. Open tennis tournament when he was tackled by officers.
Police detained Blake after he was misidentified by a cooperating witness in an ongoing investigation into fraudulently purchased cell phones, a New York Police Department spokesman said in an e-mailed statement.
A security guard at the Grand Hyatt New York hotel, himself a former member of the NYPD, recognized Blake, prompting the arresting officers to confirm his true identity.
“Once Blake was properly identified and found to have no connection to the investigation, he was released from police custody immediately,” the NYPD statement said.
After the incident, Blake received an apology from four of the five officers involved, but not from the initial arresting officer, Blake’s mother said.
“He’s shaken up and wants an apology,” said Betty Blake.
Betty Blake said her son suffered a bruised elbow and leg in Thursday’s incident with police. The NYPD said New York’s Police commissioner has directed the police department’s internal affairs bureau to investigate the incident.
James Blake moved to Fairfield as a child and graduated from Fairfield High School. He turned pro in 1999. The tennis courts at Fairfield Warde High School are named after him.
More recently, he had lived in nearby Westport before moving to San Diego, his current home.
Blake’s playing days lasted until 2013, and his last tournament was that year’s U.S. Open. During his career, he was ranked as high as No. 4 in the world, and reached three Grand Slam quarterfinals, including at the U.S. Open in 2005 and 2006.
Blake was inducted into the Fairfield County Sports Commission Hall of Fame in 2013.
Last year, four bodies were found after a fire tore through a million-dollar home in Tampa, Fla., belonging to and rented out by Blake. Investigators later concluded that the bodies found had been previously shot.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.