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Police Officer Who Tackled James Blake Has History of Misconduct: Reports

By Sybile Penhirin | September 11, 2015 2:24pm
 NYPD officer James Frascatore mistakenly body-Slammed James Blake, officials said.
NYPD officer James Frascatore mistakenly body-Slammed James Blake, officials said.
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Getty Images/ Clive Brunskill and WNYC

NEW YORK CITY — The NYPD officer who tackled tennis star James Blake in a case of mistaken identity has been accused of using excessive force before, according to court records. 

James Frascatore, a 38-year-old police officer who was identified in the media as the officer who arrested Blake, was named in five civilian complaints during a seven-month period in 2013, according to an investigation WNYC published last year.

The officer has more complaints — filed mostly for false testimony and excessive use of force — than 90 percent of active officers receive in their entire careers, according to the radio station and reports.

The NYPD would not confirm Frascatore was the officer who tackled Blake and a spokeswoman for the Civilian Complaint Board Review, an independent agency that investigates complaints for police misconduct, said the board was "not permitted to discuss or disclose any NYPD officer's CCRB history."

Frascatore, who once worked for the 113th precinct in Queens, is also involved in two pending-lawsuits for use of excessive force, according to courts documents. 

In 2013, Frascatore was among the police officers who beat up and pepper-sprayed Warren Diggs on "false charges," according to one of the on-going lawsuits. Diggs suffered cuts and lacerations on his face and neck and had to be transported to Jamaica Hospital. His charges were later dismissed, according to court documents. 

Frascatore was also involved in a $5 million lawsuit filed by Stefon Luckey who claims that several officers assaulted him and pepper-sprayed him outside of a Queen deli in May 2014. The officers then tried to cover up their acts and arrested Luckey on false charges, according to the complaint. 

On Wednesday, the plainclothes officer body-slammed former tennis pro Blake as he was waiting outside his hotel for a car to bring him to the U.S. open. Blake — once the 4th ranked tennis player worldwide — was handcuffed for about 15 minutes before officers realized they had mistaken him for a suspect wanted in a credit card fraud case.

The police officer was subsequently stripped of his badge and gun and assigned to administrative duties while an internal investigation is on-going, the police commissioner said.

Patrick Lynch, the president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, said the department acted prematurely in putting the officer on modified duty.

The confusion which led to Blake's take-down, came from an Instagram photo of a suspect who looked like Blake's "twin," officials said Thursday.

The photo was provided to the police by workers of the scammed online company, GoButler, which delivered at least 16 items bought with stolen credit cards in recent days, prosecutors charge.

GoButler became aware of suspicious purchases last week and immediately notified the NYPD, a spokeswoman for the company said. 

"The police identified Blake as an individual who looked similar to one of the social media profiles used to purchase items via GoButler," GoButler spokeswoman Bianca McLaren wrote in an email, adding that GoButler "did not contribute to misidentifying James Blake." 

The courier delivering the merchandise pointed Jarmaine Grey and James Short to the police and mistakenly pointed out Blake too, officials said on Thursday, adding they were still looking for a third suspect. 

Short and Grey, two British nationals who arrived in the U.S in August and were scheduled to go back to England next week, were arrested later Wednesday, police said.

Short, 27 and Grey, 26, ordered merchandises including a $275 bottle of Crystal sparkling wine, three iPhones and a Louis Vuitton Bag costing roughly $2,000, using at least nine stolen credit cards, according to court documents. They also bought $200-worth of Chinese food and spent over $2,500 on shoes from Barneys, according to the Manhattan District Attorney. 

Short and Grey, who were visiting the U.S. on student visas and live with their parents in England, were charged with grand larceny, identity theft and criminal possession of stolen property and were held on a $50,000 bond on Thursday night, according to court document. Short's lawyer said his client had no idea about the alleged scam.  Short was “in the wrong place,” his lawyer said on Thursday evening.

Grey's lawyer did not return a request for comment.

The incident caused Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton to publicly and then personally apologize to Blake. 

"I want to apologize to him on behalf of the City of New York," de Blasio said in an interview with NY1 on Thursday night, a few hours after the police commissioner had publicly and then personally apologized to the tennis star. 

"This shouldn’t have happened and he shouldn't have been treated this way," the mayor said. 

With reporting from Ben Fractenberg