The police officer who tackled retired tennis player James Blake in a mistaken arrest outside a Manhattan hotel testified Tuesday that he and his family have been getting death threats since the 2015 incident. Officer James Frascatore was part of an undercover operation targeting credit card fraud and mistakenly thought Blake was one of the suspects.
A security video captured Frascatore tackling and handcuffing Blake, who was let go after officers realized their mistake. The mayor and the former police commissioner publicly apologized to the ex-tennis star. In his second departmental trial connected in the incident, Frascatore said he was just following orders to arrest a man who looked like Blake. He said his career had been destroyed and described the upheaval it brought to his life and family.
“The best way to describe it is hell,” he said. “I had death threats coming in to my children, my wife, myself. We had to move numerous times.” Frascatore also accused Blake of creating a “false narrative about an out-of-control cop.”
“He’s part black and I’m white and it turned into a racial issue,” he said. Blake’s mother is white, and his father is black. Blake has said he thought the incident was mostly about excessive force, but also about how communities of color are generally treated.
In closing remarks Tuesday, prosecutor Javier Seymour said Frascatore broke department rules. At Frascatore’s first departmental trial, police watchdog lawyers said he should lose 10 vacation days as punishment for excessive force, but the police commissioner overruled that recommendation and docked him five vacations days. Blake said the punishment was too light.
The second trial was initiated by allegations that Frascatore participated in the investigation and leaked a longer videotape of the incident to the media.
Frascatore denied telling anyone to leak the longer tape, saying his sister-in-law gave it out in an attempt to stop the death threats. He said he was “disgusted” the NYPD didn’t release the extended video which showed him shaking hands with Blake and apologizing after the false arrest.
“It was very upsetting considering only part of it had been released,” he said. Frascatore’s lawyer, Peter Brill, said the NYPD overreacted to the incident. “The department reacts by placing too much blame. He was simply doing his job.”