“I went to feed the parking meter and a police officer on a motorcycle stopped to ask for my driver’s license.”
It was 5pm, Friday, August 22, 2014, Emmy Award weekend in LA. Charles was ordered to sit on the curb handcuffed. “I figured, they would run my license, even google me and straighten everything out.” The incident and photo of above tells a story that should have never happened but it also should have ended there. Sadly, it did not.
Instead, Charles who had been working with talent all day preparing for the weekend’s events was booked for a crime he knew nothing about.
“They took my wallet, shoes, shoelaces, fingerprints and mug shot. Then handed me a blanket and toiletry bag. As a female officer booked him, he said to her, “this is like a really bad dream.”
“Yeah this is a really bad crime you committed.” She responded. “It was like, I was arrested and convicted at the same time.”
Why did officers, while tensions were high following the murder of Michael Brown, risk making another mistake?
Sitting with Charles in an Atlanta restaurant for this interview, he shared, “I was a tall, bald, Black man who fit the description . They believed I was involved in a bank robbery.”
Days before Officer Darren Wilson murdered Michael Brown. At his trial for the murder, he testified that he “spotted two young black men walking down the middle of the road,” and wondered if “they were the suspects” involved in a robbery. They fit the description.
Sitting on the curb, Charles knew he could become another unarmed man killed by police, because he fit the description. Although wrongfully detained, he cooperated with the police.
Hours later, “Around midnight, the female booking agent escorted me from the cell to a room. There a Beverly Hills Detective and two FBI agents told Charles, “a tall, bald, Black male was going in and out of the bank complaining about the ATM, creating a distraction and serving as an accomplice to the bank robber. You fit the description.”
“I tried to describe why I wasn’t the person on the video. It was only then that they admitted they had not watched the video. Six hours later, they actually never looked for the actual guy because as it turns out, the ATM really wasn’t working.”
“They never found him. And if they had looked at the video, there were several distinguishing things that would have ruled me out, including my appearance and clothing. My t-shirt was a designer t-shirt from a friend.”
If you find the details of Charles arrest troubling, what happened after his release is more alarming.
Tomorrow Part II….. Handcuffs to M.A.D.
Charles Belk is President/Producer at I Will Make You A Star Productions and Adjucnt Professor Pierce College. He is the founder of the organization and executive director of Fitting The Description.
Atiba Madyun is President of The Madyun Group (TMG), a Public Affairs firm in Washington, DC and creator of Cognitive Relevance (CR) and Party Politics (PP). Follow him on Twitter @atibamadyun or Like Atiba Madyun on Facebook.