Officer Disciplined In Case Has Accused Previously Of Excessive Force

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Mayor Bill de Blasio has publicly apologized to former tennis star James Blake, who was mistakenly arrested by officers outside a Midtown hotel.

“I want to make very clear I’ve reached out to Mr. Blake, and I want to talk to him because I want to apologize to him on behalf of the city of New York,” de Blasio said in an exclusive interview with NY1.

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“This shouldn’t have happened, and he shouldn’t have been treated this way,” de Blasio said. “And I think it is a reminder of why we have to continue to make reforms. We are very adamant  — and (police) Commissioner (Bill) Bratton and I have spoken about this many times — that we are going to constantly improve the training of the men and women of the NYPD to focus on using only the force that’s needed in each situation.”

Earlier Thursday, Bratton said Blake was “inappropriately arrested and detained” by officers in front of the Grand Hyatt New York hotel Wednesday and that he had “no involvement in the criminal investigation” and was “totally innocent.”

Blake said he was cuffed and detained for 15 minutes, before being freed after a retired officer recognized him and told the officers to let him go.

“I didn’t know what was going on, but I was going to 100 percent cooperate with you,” Blake said. “He just put the cuffs on me and said stand up, and you know, I asked him what was going on and he said, ‘We’ll tell you soon.”

Bratton later said in a statement he spoke with Blake by phone Thursday and apologized to him. He said Blake would be returning de Blasio’s earlier call and would also meet with Internal Affairs investigators.

“Mr. Blake said he would like to meet with the Mayor and me at a future date, which we would be agreeable to,” Bratton said.

Police said members of a financial crimes task force were at the hotel investigating $18,000 in fraudulent credit card purchases from an online shopping delivery service.

Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said a courier making a delivery mistakenly identified Blake as a suspect who he had delivered to in the past. He said a photo given to the officers of the alleged suspect also had a “remarkable likeness” to Blake.

“They look like twins,” Boyce said.

Bratton said race was not a factor in the incident.

“Let’s put that nonsense to rest right now,” he said. “Race has nothing to do with this.”

Blake said he doesn’t believe it’s a case of racial profiling, but thinks it was a show of excessive force, CBS2’s Janelle Burrell reported.

The Harvard-educated tennis star, who once ranked fourth in the world, was waiting outside of the hotel for a car to take him to the US Open when he said he was tackled, pinned to the ground and handcuffed.

He said at one point, he was held down by five plainclothes officers. It was only after a retired NYPD detective nearby happened to recognize Blake and identified him that the officers let him go.

Blake said at no time did the plainclothes officer pinning him to the ground identify himself as a police officer.

“It was really just shocking,” Blake told “Good Morning America” on Thursday. “I was standing there, just waiting, minding my own business, and I saw someone coming from the street running directly at me, and naïve as I may be, I thought it maybe was just someone I didn’t recognize – a high school friend or something coming to mess with me and give me a bear hug. It turned out quickly that it wasn’t. When he picked me up, he did pretty much hug me, but he picked me up and body-slammed me, put me on the ground, told me to turn over and shut my mouth and put the cuffs on me. ”

Bratton said the officer who initiated the takedown has been placed on modified assignment as Internal Affairs continues to investigate.

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“Modified assignment, as you’re aware, in New York City means that his gun and badge have been removed, and he has been placed on administrative duties,” Bratton said.

After reviewing surveillance video of the incident, Bratton said there were concerns about the “inappropriateness of the amount of force used” during the arrest.

“I have concerns about the takedown,” Bratton said.

“We agree with the Police Commissioner that the first story is never the whole story and believe that placing this officer on modified duty is premature and unwarranted,” Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch said in a statement. “No police officer should ever face punitive action before a complete review of the facts.”

The officer who was disciplined, James Frascatore, was the one Blake said pushed him to the ground and cuffed him without ever identifying himself, CBS2’s Jessica Schneider reported.

NYPD Officer James Fraascatore has been identified as the officer put on modified leave, after tennis icon James Blake was handcuffed in a case of mistaken identity. (Credit: Amy Pearl/WNYC)

NYPD Officer James Fraascatore has been identified as the officer put on modified leave, after tennis icon James Blake was handcuffed in a case of mistaken identity. (Credit: Amy Pearl/WNYC)

But it turns out that Frascatore, a four-year veteran of the force, has been hit with several lawsuits claiming similar mistreatment.

Warren Diggs of Jamaica, Queens said he was similarly roughed up by Frascatore back in 2013 for riding his bicycle on the sidewalk near his own home.

“Frascatore punches me in the side of the head. The officer behind me grabs me by my waist and picks me up and slams me on the floor,” Diggs said.

Diggs filed a complaint alleging excessive force against the city and several NYPD officers including
Frascatore in April, and the criminal charges against him were eventually dropped.

He said multiple people in the neighborhood have told him they’ve had run-ins with Officer Frascatore.

“I guess it’s about time the light’s coming to shine on them, and hopefully something good will come out of it,” Diggs said.

Police said two British nationals were arrested in connection with the case. A third suspect is being sought.

Blake was shaken and stunned and said those involved should be held accountable.

“I’d like an explanation for how they conducted themselves. I think we all need to be held accountable for our actions, police as well,” Blake said. “They’re out there doing a very difficult job, and I even said that. I said: ‘I know you guys are doing a tough job, and I respect that. I appreciate everything you guys do to keep us safe, but I think you have the wrong person here.’ And they didn’t want to hear it, didn’t want to listen to that. I do think that most cops are doing a great job, keeping us safe, but when you police with reckless abandon, you need to be held accountable.”

The United States Tennis Association released a statement saying it is “deeply concerned” over the incident.

“James is the embodiment of a model citizen whose triumphs on and off the court continue to inspire tennis fans and non-fans alike,” the statement said. “We will continue to offer our support to James in any way we can as this investigation unfolds.”

Blake is a native of Yonkers and retired after being eliminated at the US Open in 2013. He was a perennial fan favorite at the tournament.

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No stranger to misfortune, a Tampa home that Blake was leasing out burned down in 2014 and four bodies were discovered inside.