Hanging out in your own home in a pair of basketball shorts may seem like an innocent enough of an activity, but for a black person, even that can result in an unwanted encounter with police — only this time, it happened to superstar Ving Rhames.
The 59-year-old actor recounted the 2016 incident during an interview on “The Clay Cane Show” on Sirius XM on Friday.
As Rhames explained, he was in his Santa Monica home, wearing a pair of basketball shorts and watching ESPN, when he heard a knock on the door at around 2 p.m. He answered it, only to find himself with a “red dot” on his forehead — all because a neighbor had called the police to report a “large black man” breaking into the house.
“I open the door and there is a red dot pointed at my face from a 9mm,” Rhames said. “They say, ‘put up your hands.’”
Four officers in total, including the police captain, and a police dog were waiting for Rhames outside his home, he explained. One of the officers had his 9mm pointed at him. It wasn’t until the captain recognized Rhames — because Rhames’ son played basketball against the school that his own children attended — that the situation was diffused.
The officers told Rhames that what happened was a mistake and apologized, and then explained that a woman had called 911 to report that a “large black man” was breaking into the house.
The “Mission Impossible” star and two of the officers went across the street to the house of the woman who allegedly made the call, who then denied making the call when confronted.
“So here I am in my own home, alone in some basketball shorts. Just because someone called and said a large black man is breaking in, when I opened up the wooden door, a 9mm is pointed at me,” Rhames continued. “My problem is, as I said to them, what if it was my son and he had a video game remote or something and you thought it was a gun?”
“Just like, you know, I don’t know, Trayvon had a bag of Skittles,” he added.
The Santa Monica Police Department confirmed the incident to People, informing the outlet that the encounter occurred on July 29, 2016.
“We got a call from several neighbors indicating that they thought what they were looking at was a burglary in the home and we responded within minutes,” lieutenant Saul Rodriguez said. “As soon as we discovered it was Mr. Rhames, we de-escalated immediately and informed him what happened.”
When asked why an officer had their gun raised, Rodriguez responded that officers can be “very cautious” because they don’t know what they’re going to encounter, and that “burglaries can sometimes be violent.”
Unfortunately, police encounters like the one Rhames described are all too common. From sitting inside a Starbucks to moving into a new apartment, people of color have routinely had their day-to-day activities criminalized by onlookers — even when they’re a child, and all they’re doing is selling bottled water to raise money for a family vacation.
[Photo: Ving Rhames attends Turner Broadcasting’s 2013 TCA Winter Tour on January 4, 2013 in Pasadena, California. By Christopher Polk, via Getty Images]