Actor arrested wrongfully, N.Y. police say

July 18, 1999|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

NEW YORK -- A day after Alton Fitzgerald White was arrested, strip-searched and then released when police acknowledged they had erred, the actor, who plays a leading role in the Broadway musical "Ragtime," said it seemed as if life had imitated art.

In the award-winning Broadway musical, White plays Coalhouse Walker Jr., a black man who is accosted by racist firefighters as he drives his car through turn-of-the-century New Rochelle, N.Y.

Police said late Friday that White, who is black, had been wrongfully arrested outside the lobby of his Harlem apartment building and held for five hours, after they received a report of drug dealing in his building.

White said he was talking to attorneys about bringing a federal civil rights lawsuit against police.

White said he suspected that he and the three men who were walking with him were picked out because of their race.

Marilyn Mode, chief spokeswoman for the police department, apologized to White and the three others on Friday night, but said they had fit a resident's description.

White said the wrongful arrest and detention had shaken his faith in the justice system.

"When I was sitting in that jail cell, I realized that my perception about good and justice would never be the same, just like Coalhouse," he said.

Pub Date: 7/18/99

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