Rapper Wyclef Jean is asking for an investigation into being briefly handcuffed by Sheriff’s deputies in West Hollywood on Tuesday, alleging that it was an incident of racial profiling. Jean also is calling on the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Black Lives Matter (BLM) to get involved.
“Mr. Jean is requesting a formal investigation into racial profiling by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, LAPD chief Charlie Beck and the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Department, while calling upon the ACLU and Black Lives Matter to join him in defense of civil liberties and racial bias,” Jean’s spokesperson, Melanie Bonvicino, said in a statement to CNN.
Jean, who became famous as the frontman for the Fugees and has won three Grammy awards, was stopped on West Knoll Drive at shortly after midnight by deputies investigating an armed robbery that had occurred on Sunset Boulevard. He was in a car similar to the one the robber had been driving and was wearing a red bandana, similar to that worn by the alleged robber. After a brief questioning, Jean was released when deputies determined he wasn’t a suspect in the robbery. The handcuffing was captured on video and posted by Wyclef Jean with a video on his Twitter page @WyclefJean, along with his complaints about the incident, erroneously citing the Los Angeles Police Department.
“LAPD another case of mistaken identity. Black man with red bandana robbed a gas station as I was in the studio working but im in handcuffs?” Jean tweeted. “I was asked by the police to Put my hands up. Then I was told do not move. I was instantly handcuffed before being asked to identify myself.”
The L.A. County Sheriff’s Department issued a statement apologizing to Jean. “It is unfortunate that Mr. Jean was detained for six minutes during this investigation, as he had no involvement whatsoever in this violent crime,” it said. “The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is apologetic for any inconvenience this process caused Mr. Jean. We are grateful we were able to apprehend the robbery suspects and that no one was seriously injured.”
The West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station issued a statement on Tuesday morning explaining the incident in more detail:
“Several deputies responded to the violent crime call at 12:46 a.m., looking for what the two victims reportedly described as either a gold or tan Toyota or Honda, older model sedan with paper license plates. The two victims, a man and a women, reported they were standing in the parking lot of a popular store in the 8900 block of West Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood when the suspect, a male Black adult, allegedly walked up to them, pointed a firearm at them and demanded they give him everything they had. The suspect is alleged to have traumatized the two victims by pressing the firearm onto the male’s temple and pistol whipping them both. The victims, fearing for their lives, gave the suspect their possessions containing identification and money.
“The suspect then fled the scene by entering the front passenger side of a vehicle driven by another unknown suspect, who the victims’ could only describe race. The suspects’ vehicle was seen driving north on Hilldale Avenue, then east on Sunset Boulevard and south on San Vicente Boulevard until it was out of view.
“The distraught victims called 9-1-1 and during deputies’ search for the suspects, the vehicle Mr. Jean was travelling in as a front passenger, a 2002 tan Toyota with Michigan license plates, was observed travelling on La Cienega and Santa Monica Boulevard heading south, a short distance from the crime scene. Deputies followed that vehicle briefly before the vehicle pulled over along the 700 block of West Knoll Drive, apparently reaching its intended destination.
“As deputies approached the vehicle, the occupants – driver and front passenger, almost simultaneously began to exit the vehicle. It was at this time that the deputies attempted to detain who they believed to be the suspect of the violent crime, Mr. Jean.
“Due to the violent nature of the call (armed robbery), the similarity of the suspect vehicle to Mr. Jean’s vehicle, the time of day of the unfolding detention and Mr. Jean’s furtive movements and demeanor, he was handcuffed. It is reported that Mr. Jean’s furtive movements included actions such as once he exited the vehicle, he started to walk towards the trunk of the car, questioning why he could not get his things out of his trunk, even though he was clearly instructed by deputies not to approach the trunk. Mr. Jean was also ordered several times not to place his hands near his pockets or his waistband.
“Out of an abundance of caution, a pat down search for weapons was also conducted of Mr. Jean’s person and he was subsequently secured inside the backseat of a patrol vehicle.”
The Sheriff’s Station statement said: “A supervisor, who was on scene from the very beginning of Mr. Jean’s detention, explained to Mr. Jean about the investigation being conducted and the reasons behind his lawful detention. The supervisor, a sergeant with the sheriff’s department for approximately 17 years, presented her department-issued business card to Mr. Jean and offered Mr. Jean the opportunity to discuss the matter further if he so desired. Mr. Jean accepted the business card.”
“A short time later, Sheriff’s deputies arrested Torrion Falconer, a 26 year-old black man and a resident of Lancaster, who was booked at West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station for several charges including robbery, being a former convicted felon in possession of a firearm, possession of a stolen firearm and having a loaded firearm concealed in a vehicle. Dejuan Hooper, the 30 year-old female driver of the car and a resident of Inglewood, was also arrested and booked at West Hollywood Station for robbery and possession of a controlled substance.”
Both suspects are being held in lieu of $100,000 bail.