Instagram snafu led NYPD to wrongful body-slam arrest of James Blake
An Instagram photo of an Australian sunglasses designer was given to New York police following a credit card fraud incident. Strangely enough, that photo was the identification used in the recent violent body-slam arrest of pro-tennis star James Blake.
The whole sequence of events began when a delivery company, GoButler, was ripped off by a group that purchased $18,000 worth of items with fraudulent credit cards. GoButler officials gave the NYPD the Instagram photo of Sean Satha, who looks like Blake, according to NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce.
“If you look at the photo … it’s a reasonable likeness to Mr. Blake,” Chief Boyce told ABC News. “They look like twins.”
Satha, however, was in Australia the entire time of the Blake incident, but his similarity to Blake was apparently what prompted an undercover police officer to body slam the tennis star in a controversial arrest.
In an even more complicated turn of events, though, the account that featured Satha’s photo did not even belong to him.
According to Boyce, GoButler said they retrieved Satha’s photo from an Instagram account based on the name of a person they had done business with, possibly with a stolen credit card.
“So the image of me that a lot of people have seen was originally posted on Instagram by my brother,” Satha told ABC. “I’m actually pictured holding a friend’s newborn in the sun.”
The newborn was cropped out of the image used by the NYPD, but Satha said his name was clearly tagged in the photo.
“I think this whole mess could have been avoided if someone had spent 10 minutes doing some research on Google prior to the manhunt,” said Satha.
Police Commissioner Bill Bratton refused to address specifics when asked by the New York Daily News about why cops did not vet the photo more thoroughly, saying the case was under investigation.
“I do think it warrants a comment from the police who used a photo of someone in Australia for the reason to apprehend me,” James Blake told the Daily News. “I would be interested to hear that.”
Satha told ABC he was “pretty upset” after he saw his photo “being broadcasted all over the media and being called a suspect and thief,” but he was “really inspired by the way James Blake handled the situation.”
Satha said Blake “used his profile to give a voice to others – those suffering from excessive force who have been unable to speak out – so I just really hope that something good comes from this unfortunate series of events.”
Officer James Frascatore, who is white, tackled Blake, who is black, on the sidewalk thinking he was Satha and responsible for the credit card fraud. He cuffed him outside the Grand Hyatt Hotel on September 9.
The arrest of Blake has led to calls by New York lawmakers for Frascatore to be fired. The cop has been stripped of his badge while the investigation is underway.
Frascatore is also being sued in four lawsuits for using excessive force during stops and arrests, and has been cited in five Civilian Review Board Complaints.