Authorities in New York are investigating an incident involving retired U.S. tennis player James Blake, who says he was thrown to the ground and handcuffed by police while being mistaken for a suspect in a crime.
Blake, who is in New York to attend the U.S. Open, told the New York Daily News he was standing outside the Grand Hyatt Hotel in midtown Manhattan Wednesday when a plainclothes police officer tackled him and told him to roll facedown on the ground.
He told officers to check his identification, and he was released. Blake said the plainclothes officer never identified himself.
“To me it’s as simple as unnecessary police force, no matter what my race is," Blake, whose mother is white and whose father was black, told the Daily News. "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."
The Daily News says Blake was released after a retired police officer recognized him and identified him to the arresting officers. Blake said he then told the officers to check his identification and credentials for the U.S. Open, which were in his pockets.
Police, who were conducting a sting on a credit card fraud ring, say a cooperating witness mistakenly identified Blake as a participant in the scheme. At least one other person in the vicinity was taken into custody.
New York Police Commissioner William Bratton told reporters that Blake "has a right to be upset about it." He said he will not tolerate any excessive use of force in his department.
A police spokesman later said an officer is being placed on "modified assignment" after video of the incident was examined. Of Blake, he said, "The bottom line is, they got the wrong guy."
Blake said he spoke out publicly to call attention to excessive use of force by police. He said he would like an apology from the department.
Blake, 35, is attending the U.S. Open tennis tournament, making appearances for corporate sponsors. He rose to number four in the world and won 10 singles titles before retiring in 2013, making almost $8 million.