On Thursday, legendary tennis player James Blake spoke publicly about being tackled by NYPD officers and handcuffed during a disturbing case of mistaken identity. Speaking to Good Morning America host Robin Roberts, Blake said that while was in midtown Manhattan for the U.S. Open, he was thrown to the ground and handcuffed by a plainclothes NYPD officer. The case is currently under investigation, but could cost the department millions should Blake file suit. In 2014, the NYPD paid more in settlement claims than any other single agency, according to the New York Post.
Claims against the New York Police Department cost taxpayers a whopping $216.9 million last year — more than the department has ever been forced to pay in the last ten fiscal years.
Blake, who was once a top-ten tennis champion, told GMA that he was standing outside the Grand Hyatt New York waiting for transportation to the U.S. Open on Wednesday when a man in shorts and a t-shirt began running up to him.
I was standing there just waiting, minding my own business, and I saw someone coming from the street running directly at me.
Blake said he first thought the person was an old friend or classmate rushing in for a bear hug. He told Roberts that when he realized that he was being handcuffed, his first words were to help diffuse the situation:
The first words out of my mouth were, "I'm going to 100 percent cooperate. I don't want any incident or whatever," just out of reaction from what I've seen in the media.
The officer, who Blake said did not immediately identify himself, was soon joined by four more NYPD officers who detained him for 15 minutes before realizing they had the wrong person. Luckily, the tennis champ remembered that his tournament credentials were in his pocket:
I said, "Look, officer, I'm scared, so if I say something wrong, I'm sorry, but I just want to know what’s going on. I think you have the wrong person." I had my credential for the U.S. Open in my back pocket and [I said], "Please check that. You can tell I'm a former player. It’s a final eight badge. It means I did pretty well at the U.S. Open. I'd like to clear my name."
Speaking to Good Morning America on Thursday, Blake said he feels lucky that he was able to remain calm during his encounter with the officers:
I'm happy that my reaction was that I was actually smiling at the person, because I could see how if I put my arms up or if I did anything it could be a sign of showing some sort of resistance. And instead of having a little bruise on my leg, I might have some broken bones or some actual injuries, because it didn't seem like he was slowing down and he was gonna continue that tackle.