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Former tennis star James Blake ‘slammed to ground’ as victim of mistaken identity

Heavy-handed: Former tennis world number four James Blake has hit out at the NYPD over his treatment

By Steve Ginsburg

FORMER tennis star James Blake was slammed to the ground, handcuffed and detained for about 15 minutes in New York City on Wednesday before police realized they had the wrong man in an identity theft ring, New York’s Daily News reported.

The incident occurred as Blake, formerly the world’s fourth-ranked player, was waiting for a car outside a Midtown Manhattan hotel to take him to the US Open, he told the newspaper.

Blake said that after being shoved to the sidewalk, he was detained by five white plainclothes city police officers. But the New York native, who is black, stopped short of calling it racial profiling.

“I don’t know if it’s as simple as that,” the 35-year-old Blake told the News. “To me it’s as simple as unnecessary police force, no matter what my race is.
“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.”

Police said Blake had been mistakenly identified by “a cooperating witness” as being involved in a ring dealing in fraudulently purchased cellphones. They added that allegations of excessive force would be investigated by internal affairs.

“Once Blake was properly identified and found to have no connection to the investigation, he was released from police custody immediately,” police 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,” 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.

Blake, who had been scheduled to make a corporate appearance for Time-Warner Cable at the US Open tournament in the borough of Queens, suffered a cut to his left elbow and bruises to his left leg.

Blake said he was telling the story to highlight the issue of excessive police force.
“I have resources to get to the bottom of this,” he said. “I have a voice. But what about someone who doesn’t have those resources and doesn’t have a voice?”

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