NYPD Body Slams Former Tennis Great in Mistaken Identity Case

James Blake
The Associated Press
New York, NY

Former tennis star James Blake, once ranked fourth in the world, is calling for the NYPD officer who mistook him for a thief and body-slammed him to the ground to be fired.

On Wednesday, Blake, 35, was standing outside Manhattan’s Grand Hyatt hotel when NYPD officer James Frascatore grabbed him and threw him to the ground, then handcuffed him after officers mistakenly thought Blake was an identity thief. Blake was waiting for a car to transport him to the U.S. Open tennis tournament.

Robert Boyce, chief of detectives for the New York police, said detectives from the Identity Theft Task Force arrived at the Grand Hyatt to arrest thieves buying high-end shoes with fraudulent credit cards. When a courier delivered the goods to one man, police arrested him. The courier identified Blake as another perpetrator, prompting police to identify Blake using a photo from the company supplying the goods. Boyce argued, “If you look at the photo… it’s a reasonable likeness to Mr. Blake. They look like twins.”

On Saturday, Blake said of Frascatore, 38, “I don’t think he deserves to have a badge. I hope he can never do that to anyone else and get away with it. I hope he can never do that again under the shield of the New York Police Department… He doesn’t deserve to have the same title as officers who are doing good work and are really helping keep the rest of the city safe.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner William Bratton have apologized to Blake. Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, said Frascatore did “a professional job of bringing the individual to the ground.”

NYPD spokesman Sgt. Carlos Nieves said, “There is currently an ongoing Internal Affairs Bureau investigation into the September 9th incident involving Mr. James Blake.” Frascatore’s shield and gun have been removed while he was transferred to modified assignment.

Frascatore apparently claimed he identified himself as a cop, yelling, “Police! Don’t move!” Blake responded that Frascatore was lying, saying, “Yes. I’m not mincing words here. In my opinion he should never have a badge again because I think it’s people like him that give the entire force a bad name.”

Blake told CNN, “I think about how scary it would have been had I put my arms up and done the normal reaction… to defend myself. If I had any sort of resistance, I wonder what could have happened. I could have broken bones, a concussion or worse.” He added that none of those dealing with him identified themselves as law enforcement or displayed their badges.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo would only say, “I’ll leave it to the NYPD to come up with the appropriate discipline. There is no doubt that Mr. Blake was wrongly treated. It was very disturbing to see that video, to say the least . . . I think he deserved an apology from the mayor and from the police commissioner.”

New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton dismissed accusations the incident was racially motivated because Blake is biracial, asserting, “I don’t believe that race was a factor. This rush to put a race tag on it, I’m sorry, that’s not involved in this at all.”

Blake vowed to “use my voice to turn this unfortunate incident into a catalyst for change in the relationship between the police and the public they serve. I don’t want a lawsuit that says, ‘Here’s $5 million. Go away. We’re not going to talk about this again.’ I want to talk about this, open dialogue… about real solutions, accountability, about making sure that this isn’t going to happen.”

Frascatore was named in a 2014 complaint alleging he and seven other officers and sergeants beat and unlawfully arrested a man in May 2013. In May, he was named in a complaint accusing him of excessive force against a man for riding his bicycle on the sidewalk in 2013.

Watch the video of the Grand Hyatt incident here.