4 Actors Allege Abuse by Police


Actor Wesley Snipes, star of the film “New Jack City,” accused Los Angeles police officers Friday of racial harassment during a recent traffic stop west of downtown--a claim echoed by several other black actors.

The actor said he was ordered out of his car by police, forced to lie face down on the pavement, where he was spread-eagled and handcuffed while one officer kneeled on his neck and held a 9-millimeter handgun to his head.

The incident in the Rampart Division occurred around midnight last Sunday after the actor left a movie set in a leased late-model Mustang, which had been mistakenly reported as stolen, Snipes said.


The actor, 28, a New York resident, was joined at a news conference Friday by “L.A. Law” actor Blair Underwood, Tico Wells of “The Five Heartbeats” and Reginald Dorsey, of the TV series, “Booker.” All four actors discussed encounters with police that they said show that the recent alleged police mistreatment of Altadena resident Rodney G. King is not an isolated case.

“If he (Snipes) were Tom Cruise this would have never happened,” said Underwood. “They would have realized it was a mistake right away.”

Snipes said he was driving on 3rd Street west of downtown when he was pulled over by a patrol car which had followed him for several blocks. Two officers emerged, he said, and forced him to the ground.

“All the while,” Snipes said, “I’m asking them basically what did I do wrong, but they wouldn’t tell me.”

The car was leased by his production company, Snipes said, but the officers told him a computer check had listed it as stolen. He was taken to the Rampart station, handcuffed to a bench and subjected to further taunting by officers, he said.

“One of the officers said, ‘Hey aren’t you Wesley Snipes, ‘New Jack City?’ I just saw your movie,” Snipes said. “Then he told all the other police officers and said, ‘We have an actor in custody.’ ”


After being held more than two hours, Snipes was released. “The whole experience was humiliating,” he said.

Police spokesman Robert Gil offered little comment except to say that Snipes’ allegation was under investigation. He did say that “apparently the car dealer had mistakenly put in a report that the car had been stolen.”

Gil said officers are usually allowed discretion in their treatment of suspects “ranging from verbal warnings up to and including the use of deadly force . . . but if a suspect is cooperative, it doesn’t warrant slamming them on the ground.”

Underwood said that two years ago he too was pulled over by a police officer who pulled a gun on him because he thought he was driving a stolen car. “I was livid,” Underwood said.

Both Wells and Dorsey told of being stopped by police because they were driving in a part of town where police said they drew suspicion. Dorsey said police “were looking for a suspect, someone who just robbed a convenience store or stole a car.”

Ramona Ripston, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, which sponsored the news conference, said that “because of the criminal profiles used by police in Los Angeles, a black man driving a rental car is an immediate suspect of a crime. So is a black man driving an expensive car, a car with a car phone, or an old, run-down car.”