In 2015, former tennis player James Blake was on his way to an appearance for the U.S. Open when a plainclothes NYPD officer tackled him “like an NFL linebacker.” After the cop forced Blake to the ground and handcuffed him, more cops swarmed to help detain him outside of the Grand Hyatt Hotel.
The incident was caught on surveillance camera and released by the NYPD.
Blake, who is biracial, was let go 15 minutes later but suffered minor bruises to his legs and a cut on his arm, according to the New York Daily News. Officer James Frascatore, who is white, maintained that he ambushed the retired tennis star because he fit the description of a credit card thief.
Over the last two years, Frascatore, who has since been placed on modified duty with the NYPD, says his life has been ruined. He plans to sue Blake for slander and emotional distress, and argues that he was made to look like a “racist goon.”
“People need to realize that, with the information I had at the time and the circumstances that presented themselves, it was the right call,” he told the New York Post. “I have a family to go home to. I’m on a crowded sidewalk, with a possibly armed suspect in the middle of 42nd Street. You have to take control of the situation. I can’t just be pulling out my gun.”
The NYPD, Civilian Complaint Review Board Director Tracy Catapano-Fox, the city of New York, and Blake’s book publisher, HarperCollins are also named in Frascatore’s complaint, to be filed this week.
Frascatore was also upset to find that Blake addressed the incident in his book, Ways of Grace: Stories , of Activism, Adversity and How Sports Can Bring Us Together.
In an interview with Daily News shortly after the altercation, Blake described the “scary” run-in with authorities as being race related. “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,” he said at the time.
Blake later told Good Morning America that the case was less about race and more about “excessive force.”
NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton publicly apologized to Blake. He also said that race had “nothing to do” with the arrest, and added that a witness had mistakenly identified Blake as the suspect involved in an apparent credit card scheme, who was later arrested.
“If you look at the photograph of the suspect, it looks like the twin brother of Mr. Blake,” Bratton said.