Hip hop artist Wyclef Jean was detained and handcuffed by police Tuesday after being mistaken for a robbery suspect near a Los Angeles recording studio where he had been working. In a series of Tweets and an Instagram post, he described what happened and posted video of the encounter. “LAPD another case of mistaken identity. Black man with red bandana robbed a gas station as I was in the studio working but im in handcuffs?”
Though he was ultimately released, the incident highlights the often fraught relationship between law enforcement and people of color.
The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department confirmed with NBC News that deputies in West Hollywood were on the lookout for an armed black male wearing a dark-colored hoodie and a red bandana following an armed robbery at a gas station just after 1 a.m. PT. A patrol unit in the area observed a vehicle that they said matched the description given by witnesses. Inside was Wyclef Jean, who was wearing a red bandana, and was subsequently ordered out of the car.
In a series of tweets earlier today, Jean described what happened next. “I was asked by the police to put my hands up. Then I was told do not move. I was instantly hand cuffed before being asked to identify myself...I said my name and told them they have wrong person. They proceeded to ignore me and I was treated like a criminal until other police showed up and pointed out they had wrong person.”
Lest it be said that Jean is biased against police, the rapper said, “As some one who has law enforcers in my family, I was appalled by this behavior of the LAPD.”
Born in Haiti, Wyclef Jean made his name with the rap group The Fugees and is known for his humanitarian work in his homeland, where he hoped to run for President in 2010 but was disqualified due to non-residence. Following the episode, Jean requested the name of the arresting sergeant at the scene, though he has yet to file a complaint or make a statement to police about what happened. According to The New York Times, Sgt. D. Walker of the West Hollywood station would only say of the encounter, “I know that he was detained.”
[Photo: Wyclef Jean Twitter]