Film actor alleges harassment by Los Angeles police officers

April 13, 1991|By Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES -- Actor Wesley Snipes, star of the film "New Jack City," accused Los Angeles police officers yesterday of racial harassment during a recent traffic stop -- a claim echoed by several other black actors.

The actor said he was ordered out of his car by police and forced to lie face-down on the pavement, where he was spread-eagled and handcuffed while one officer knelt on his neck and put a 9mm handgun to his head.

The incident occurred about midnight Sunday after the actor left a movie set in a leased late-model Mustang that had been mistakenly reported as stolen, Mr. Snipes said.

Mr. Snipes, 28, a New York resident, was joined at a news conference yesterday by "L.A. Law" actor Blair Underwood, Tico Wells of "The Five Heartbeats" and Reginald Dorsey of the TV series "Booker." All four actors discussed encounters with police that they said show that the recent police beating of Rodney King is not an isolated case.

"If he were Tom Cruise, this would have never happened," Mr. Underwood said of Mr. Snipes. "They would have realized it was a mistake right away."

Mr. Snipes said he was pulled over by a patrol car that had followed him for several blocks. Two officers forced him to the ground, he said.

"All the while," Mr. Snipes said, "I'm asking them basically what did I do wrong, but they wouldn't tell me."

The car was leased by his production company, Mr. Snipes said, but the officers told him a computer check had listed it as stolen. He was taken to the police station, handcuffed to a bench and subjected to further taunting by officers, he said.

"One of the officers said, 'Hey, aren't you Wesley Snipes, 'New Jack City?' I just saw your movie,' " Mr. Snipes said. "Then he told all the other police officers and said, 'We have an actor in custody.' "

After being held more than two hours, Mr. Snipes was released.

Police spokesman Robert Gil offered little comment except to say that Mr. Snipes' allegation was under investigation.

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