LOCAL

LAPD investigates officers' conduct in detention of actress

Daniele Watts, who made her film debut in “Django Unchained,” detained briefly after kissing a man

Los Angeles police officials said Sunday they were investigating the conduct of officers after accusations by an actress who says they questioned and handcuffed her last week after she kissed her companion in public.

Video posted on social media shows "Django Unchained" actress Daniele Watts handcuffed, wearing a T-shirt, gym shorts and athletic shoes, telling an officer, "You guys came and grabbed me … for no reason."

"As I was sitting in the back of the police car, I remembered the countless times my father came home frustrated or humiliated by the cops when he had done nothing wrong," Watts, who is African American, wrote on her public Facebook page.

According to the police account of the incident, officers were responding to a 911 complaint that a couple was engaged in indecent exposure inside a silver Mercedes-Benz with the door open. Patrol officers and a sergeant from the North Hollywood Division responded to the 11900 block of Ventura Boulevard in Studio City and "located two individuals that matched the description of the suspects, and they were briefly detained," police said in a statement.

"Upon further investigation it was determined that no crime had been committed," police said. "Ms. Watts and her companion were subsequently released."

After the incident, Watts and her companion, Brian James Lucas, voiced their complaints about the officers' conduct on their Facebook pages.

Watt wrote that she was detained after "showing affection, fully clothed, in a public place." By the time police arrived, she said she was talking on her cellphone with her father. "I knew that I had done nothing wrong, that I wasn't harming anyone, so I walked away," Watts wrote. Shortly thereafter, she said, two officers came up and put her in handcuffs.

Lucas, a Los Angeles chef, gave a similar account. He said officers mistreated Watts when she refused to provide them with her identification.

"I gave him my ID knowing we did nothing wrong and when they asked D for hers, she refused to give it because they had no right to do so," wrote Lucas, who is white. "So they handcuffed her and threw her roughly into the back of the cop car until they could figure out who she was. In the process of handcuffing her, they cut her wrist, which was truly not cool!"

Lucas posted photos of the incident, including one of a cut he said Watts suffered while being detained.

LAPD Capt. Stephen Carmona of the North Hollywood area station said that "because of the allegations that were raised … we're going to look into it.... We take all of these things really seriously, and we're going to ask the hard questions."

Nonetheless, Carmona defended the officers, saying they were doing due diligence when they detained Watts after she did not give them identification.

"That's just basic policework. It could be a vandalism suspect in an alley," Carmona said. "The vandalism may be done, but they're still going to investigate the incident."

"We can't just say, 'OK, thanks, you guys. We're going to go now,'" Carmona said. "We're obligated to see who it was, so that if something comes up later, we know who we dealt with."

Watts and Lucas did not respond to The Times' requests for comment. Watts' manager, Shepard Smith, declined to comment.

Watts plays the daughter of Martin Lawrence's character on the FX television sitcom "Partners," which premiered last month. She also had a role on the final season of the Showtime TV series "Weeds."

The incident comes weeks after Beverly Hills police officers handcuffed and detained Charles Belk, an African American film producer who was attending a pre-Emmy party in the city. Police officials later expressed regret, calling the incident "extremely unfortunate."

amina.khan@latimes.com

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
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