MIDTOWN — Former tennis star James Blake was thrown to the ground and detained by NYPD detectives outside of his 42nd Street hotel Wednesday after being mistaken for an identity theft suspect, according to officials and witnesses.
Blake, 35, was standing outside of the Grand Hyatt New York on East 42nd Street waiting for a car to take him to the U.S. Open when he was suddenly tackled by an officer, the New York Daily News first reported.
“They took him down violently, he could have gotten hurt. I don’t think he hit the ground gently,” hotel guest David Thurber, 48, told DNAinfo New York. "[Blake] was yelling in surprise, 'What’s going on?'"
Blake — who at one time was ranked fourth in the world — was "misidentified" by a cooperating witness as a person who purchased a cell phone using stolen credit card information, according to police.
"Once Blake was properly identified and found to have no connection to the investigation, he was released from police custody immediately," Deputy Commissioner of Public Information Stephen Davis said in a statement. "In regards to the alleged improper use of force, the Police Commissioner directed the internal affairs bureau to investigate."
He was handcuffed by members of the Identity Theft Task Force for about 15 minutes before a retired member of the NYPD told detectives who he was, according to the report and officials.
Blake then produced his ID and was released.
A second person was also identified by the witness at the hotel and taken into custody.
Several of the officers apologized, but not the first officer who tackled him, Blake told the News.
The former player, who is black, said there was “probably a race factor involved” in his being detained.
“To me it's as simple as unnecessary police force, no matter what my race is,” Blake told the News. “In my mind there's probably a race factor involved, but no matter what there's no reason for anybody to do that to anybody.”
The former tennis pro was not seriously injured and was eventually able to make it to the Open.