Police apologize after handcuffing Black man they thought was credit card thief at Virginia mall
Virginia Beach Police Department apologized after an officer mistook a black man for a credit card thief and publicly handcuffed him while his family watched in a crowded mall.
Jamar Mackey was at the Lynnhaven Mall in Virginia Beach on Saturday when an officer approached him at the food court, enjoying dinner with his family and handcuffing him, a viewer video posted on Facebook showed. Though he denied involvement in the theft, officials escorted Mackey out of the mall in handcuffs to be released after discovering he was the wrong person.
Police hold a black man in a mall in Virginia while he and his family were eating. (Kiara Love via Facebook)
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In attendance was Mackey's fiancée, 13-year-old son, and their newborn baby, Mackey told WVEC. Mackey and his fiancée did not immediately respond to NBC News' request for comment.
After the video of the clash went viral, the VBPD and Police Chief Paul Neudigate released a statement on Sunday.
"Surely everyone would get upset about being jailed for something they didn't do," Neudigate said. “While the video shows that the officer remained calm and respectful during the brief encounter, we need to ensure that the situation deserves the answer. We are gathering all the facts to evaluate the incident so we can address the concerns people have raised.
The statement also indicated that an investigation is currently underway to review the arrest officer's response to the matter.
VBPD did not respond to NBC News' request for comment on Tuesday.
Neudigate also apologized to Mackey during a press conference Monday.
"Right or wrong, we must be able to apologize if our actions cause a member of the community great inconvenience," Neudigate said of officials investigating a report of stolen credit cards at the mall and Mackey matched the suspect's description.
In the five-minute video, Mackey sits with his hands behind his back in a crowded food court and an officer handcuffs him while he and his fiancée, who is taping the video, try to explain that they are not driving a black truck after he was asked by the officer.
“What did he do, can you tell us? We just got here with our family, we don't even have a black truck, ”said Mackey's fiancée.
Mackey added, "You have the wrong person."
After Mackey is escorted outside, the officers are heard on the video explaining that Mackey matched the description of a credit card theft suspect that Mackey and his fiancée repeatedly denied knowledge of.
"We are with our children!" Said Mackey's fiancée. "Do you think my son will forget that?" she said, adding that the situation was "embarrassing" for her and her family.
Eventually the officer released Mackey and tried to explain himself.
"We received a description of someone who used stolen credit cards. This person is a black man with dreadlocks and only wears black and was with a boy in red," the official said before apologizing.
In the days following the incident, local officials spoke out on behalf of Mackey, condemned the VBPD's actions and described the detention as discriminatory.
“I saw the video of the incident at the Lynnhaven Mall, and like many of you, I am upset and frustrated with this man who endured the embarrassment and outrage being handcuffed in front of his wife, children and a crowd of buyers for something he didn't do, "Alderman Aaron Rouse said in a Facebook post. "How are a law-abiding citizen, family man, husband, father, and small business owner handcuffed for something he hasn't done? Why did it happen to him? What is the SOP?"
"Jamar Mackey's unlawful detention in front of his children was unacceptable and symbolic of the frequent disproportionate treatment of people of color by law enforcement agencies," Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va., Said on Twitter.
The Virginia Beach NAACP also responded to the incident, saying: “The Virginia Beach NAACP strongly condemns the apparent racist tendency shown in the video clip that is now rife on social media. Amid a global pandemic, Virginia Beach police officers - without masks or personal protective equipment - mistakenly arrested a black man who was spending time with his family. "
The NAACP added that they will not rest "until every black citizen in Virginia Beach can shop, dine and travel without being racially profiled by our town's cops."
Since the incident on Saturday, police have arrested another man in connection with the theft. Markee Smith, 28, has been charged with four credit card fraud, receiving stolen goods, and twice parole.
On Monday, Mackey addressed the incident on his Facebook page and thanked those who supported him.
“I just want to publicly thank everyone for the inboxes for calls and sharing our video from Saturday at the mall. It was a very traumatic experience for our family that we wouldn't wish for anyone, ”Mackey said in the Post, adding that he wants to return to normal so that he and his family can enjoy the vacation.
Neudigate said the ongoing investigation will attempt to answer whether the initial approach and stop were warranted and whether the use of handcuffs was warranted.
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