Police in Iowa City released body camera videos Tuesday of their encounter last week with a black University of Iowa football player as they sought a suspect in a bank robbery.
The videos show officers stopping defensive end Faith Ekakitie on July 20 as they searched for a large black man suspected of holding up a bank at gunpoint. News of the encounter spread across the Internet after Ekakitie described “four gun barrels staring me in the face” in a viral Facebook post. Ekakitie went on to write that “today was the first time I’ve truly feared for my life,” but thanked police for handling a sensitive situation very professionally.”
Ekakitie wrote that he was wearing earbuds and playing Pokemon Go in a park when officers approached him. At least one officer in the video can be seen with a gun drawn and a female officer says, “Just keep your hands up. It’s probably not you, but we’ve got to double-check” as she approaches Ekakitie. The Iowa City Police Department, in releasing the videos, said that two uniformed officers, two plainclothes ICPD investigators, one uniformed Johnson County Sheriff’s deputy and one uniformed University of Iowa Police officer and a K-9 involved in the incident.
Officers asked why he was in the park and why he said he had parked his moped around the corner. “I was actually playing ‘Pokemon Go,’ believe it or not,” Ekakitie says, and an officer replies, “I believe it, actually.”
Ekakitie is shown being questioned further and an officer tells him, “If you see another black man dressed all in black right now, give us a call. Walk the other way, because he’s supposed to have a gun.”
Iowa City Police Department spokesman Sgt. Scott Gaarde told the Iowa City Press-Citizen that the suspect in the robbery was a black man about 6 feet tall, wearing a black shirt and shorts and a black covering on his head. Ekakitie, who is 6 feet 3, was wearing black goggles on his head, black pants and a black T-shirt.
“As contact was made with Mr. Ekakitie, it was immediately noticed that he was wearing headphones and might not be able to hear the officers’ instructions,” the police department’s press release states. “Within two minutes of the initial contact, officers determined that Mr. Ekakitie was not the suspect. Officers then explained why they had detained him. After routine checks to verify Mr. Ekakitie’s identify were completed, officers left the park.”
After thanking police in his post, Ekakitie reminded people to pay attention to what’s going on around them.
I am not one to usually rant on Facebook or anywhere else, but with all of the crazy things that have been happening in our world these past couple of weeks it is hard to stay silent. I am thankful to be alive, and I do now realize, that it very well could have been me, a friend of mine, my brother, your cousin, your nephew etc. Misunderstandings happen all the time and just like that things can go south very quickly. It is extremely sad that our society has brainwashed us all to the point where we can’t feel safe being approached by the police officers in our respective communities. Not all police officers are out to get you, but at the same time, not all people who fit a criminal profile are criminals.
So with that, I would also urge people to be more aware of their surroundings because clearly I wasn’t. Lastly, I would urge us all to at least to attempt to unlearn some of the prejudices that we have learned about each other and now plague our minds and our society. I am convinced that in the same way that we learned these prejudices, we can also unlearn them.
Ekakitie has been praised for his thoughtful response to the encounter. His Iowa coach, Kirk Ferentz, told reporters at Big Ten media day that “to me, what he said was impressive.” The police spokesman agreed.
“I thought it was a very articulate and well-written article,” Gaarde told the Press-Citizen, ” … and instead of pointing fingers and placing blame he actually took the initiative to look at it from a different perspective, which is refreshing.”