(Reuters) - 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 U.S. 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,” the New York Police Department said in a statement.
Investigators reviewed surveillance video of the incident and one officer has been placed on modified assignment, the NYPD said late on Wednesday.
Blake, who had been scheduled to make a corporate appearance for Time-Warner Cable at the U.S. 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?”
Reporting by Steve Ginsburg in Washington; Editing by Peter Cooney and Himani Sakar