Police Release Recordings Of Gates Confrontation

Henry Louis Gates speaks on CNN i i

Henry Louis Gates Jr. participates in a panel on CNN's live show Moment of Truth: Countdown to Black in America 2 days after his arrest. Frank Franklin II/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Frank Franklin II/AP
Henry Louis Gates speaks on CNN

Henry Louis Gates Jr. participates in a panel on CNN's live show Moment of Truth: Countdown to Black in America 2 days after his arrest.

Frank Franklin II/AP

The woman who called 911 to report a possible burglary at the home of Harvard professor Louis Gates Jr. said she saw two men trying to force their way into his Cambridge, Mass., house, but she didn't initially mention their race and told the dispatcher she was uncertain when asked.

Lucia Whalen called the police July 16 to report that she saw two men using their shoulders to "barge in" a house. During the call, Whalen said she wasn't sure whether the men lived there and were having a hard time getting inside or if they were breaking in.

"They kind of broke the screen door, and they kind of barged in," she said in the call to the Cambridge Police Department, which released the tapes Monday amid public debate over whether the case involved racial profiling. "They were pushing the door in, like, the screen part of the front door was kind of, like, cut."

Gates, who is black, had returned home from an overseas trip to find the front door to his home jammed, so he and another man tried to force open the door. Ultimately, Gates entered through the back.

Police arrived at the house and asked for Gates' identification. The professor was arrested during the incident and charged with disorderly conduct, but the charges were later dropped.

Gates, 58, has accused the responding officer of racism and racial profiling.

In releasing the tapes, Cambridge police Commissioner Robert C. Haas said Monday it was up to the public to draw its own conclusions. Haas also released copies of taped radio transmissions between officers at the scene and the police dispatcher.

On the tape, Sgt. James Crowley, the arresting officer, sounded calm as he told the dispatcher "I'm up with a gentleman who says he resides here, but he was uncooperative, but, ugh, keep the cars coming."

Gates went on to tell the dispatcher, "I'm giving you the resident as Henry Louis Gates Jr."

Whalen, who works nearby, called the police because she was aware of recent burglaries in the area, according to a statement issued Sunday by attorney Wendy Murphy. Murphy said Whalen wanted to issue a statement to correct "misinformation" that she reported two black men appeared to be breaking into a home in the mostly white neighborhood.

"Are they white, black or Hispanic?" the dispatcher asked Whalen during the call reporting a possible burglary in progress.

"Well, there were two larger men. One looked kind of Hispanic, but I'm not really sure. And the other one entered and I didn't see what he looked like at all," Whalen responded, adding that she saw the men from a distance.

Gates' supporters called his arrest an outrageous act of racial profiling. Crowley's supporters say Gates was arrested because he was belligerent and that race was not a factor.

Interest in the case intensified when President Obama said at a White House news conference last week that Cambridge police "acted stupidly" in arresting Gates. He later tried to quell the uproar about his comments and invited both Gates and Crowley to the White House for a beer, a meeting that could happen this week, according to the White House.

Material from The Associated Press was used in this story.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.