The police officer at the center of a national racial firestorm triggered by President Barack Obama told an interviewer Thursday that he had nothing to apologize for in the arrest of a black Harvard scholar, and that the president he didn’t vote for should have considered his words more carefully.
“The apology won’t come from me,” Sgt. James Crowley told Carl Stevens of WBZ News Radio in Boston. "I’ve done nothing wrong."
A well-regarded officer who is an expert on racial profiling, Crowley responded to a call at the Cambridge home of Henry Louis Gates Jr. last week to investigate a report of a burglary. Confronting Gates and another man who appeared to have forced open the door of the home, Crowley asked Gates to show him identification.
Gates initially refused and accused Crowley of racism. The professor, a close friend of Harvard alumnus Barack Obama, was charged with disorderly conduct. The charge was dropped Tuesday, and Gates has since demanded an apology from Crowley.
In a four-minute interview outside his home, Crowley revealed that:Gates escalated the situation by yelling and refusing to calm down, calling Crowley a racist, and referring to his mother.He was the police officer who tried to save the life of former Boston Celtics player Reggie Lewis, a black man, who collapsed and died during an off-season workout at Brandeis University. Crowley said he still is very shaken because of that event.Crowley said he didn’t vote for Obama but supports the president 110 percent. He also suggested that the president was siding with his friend Gates, and he probably would have done the same in a similar situation.Though he said he would do everything exactly the same way again, Crowley did express regret at the media attention and pressure the event has brought on his friends and family.
“I acted appropriately. Mr. Gates was given plenty of opportunity to stop what he was doing,” Crowley said. “He didn’t. He acted very irrational, and he controlled the outcome of that event.”
“There was a lot of yelling. There was references to my mother,” Crowley said. “Something you wouldn’t expect from anybody who should be grateful you’re there investigating the report of a crime in progress, let alone a Harvard University professor.”
The reporter then referred to the death of Lewis, explaining that he worked the scene that night when Crowley tried to save the player’s life.
“I was a police officer at Brandeis University at the time and I was responding to a medical call and had the unfortunate experience of trying to revive somebody who was probably already gone,” Crowley said. “It was very tough emotionally dealing with that as well.”
The reporter than asked him to respond to those who allege that he is a racist.
“It almost doesn’t warrant a comment. My friends, my family my colleagues — those people whose opinions mean the most to me — they know who I am, they know what I am and what I am not. It’s an unfortunate thing that the professor and other people even mentioned that.”
Asked what he thought of the president’s comments, Crowley immediately replied, “I didn’t vote for him,” and then smiled.
“When he said the Cambridge police acted stupidly, he was talking about you,” the interviewer said. “What was your reaction to that?
“My only reaction, somebody had told me what he said. I didn’t hear the press conference but I did listen afterwards and I support the president of the United States 110 percent. I think he’s way off base wading into a local issue without knowing all the facts as he himself stated before making that comment so again, I don’t know what to say about that. I guess a friend of mine would support my position too.”
Asked whether he is able to do his job, Crowley responded: “Sure. I absolutely will. This will not distract me from doing what it is I do. And if a similar call came in tomorrow, I wouldn’t shy away from responding and I’d do what I have to do.”
Asked whether he should have done anything differently, Crowley responded bluntly: “No.”
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