What really went down between Denzel Washington, police and a homeless man

Denzel Washington was recently filmed helping a man confronted by police in Los Angeles.
(Jordan Strauss / Invision/AP)

Screen icon Denzel Washington garnered praise on social media this week after a viral video captured the actor helping a distraught man confronted by police.

Multiple officers from the Los Angeles Police Department responded to the incident, which occurred May 21 on the 800 block of North La Cienega Boulevard. In the footage, shared Thursday by former NBA star Rex Chapman, Washington can be seen chatting with the man and police through a surgical mask.

The “Fences” star later gives the man a handful of masks and supervises as officers gently pat him down. Despite cops appearing to pull the man’s hands behind his back at one point in the brief clip, he was not arrested, according to Tony Im, an LAPD public information officer, and a representative for Washington.


However, the man was detained for a mental health evaluation and released shortly thereafter, according to Im. Authorities were responding to a call reporting a homeless man in the roadway.

Many have contrasted the calm handling of the situation with the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who was killed Monday after a white police officer in Minneapolis knelt on his neck as Floyd pleaded, “I can’t breathe.”

In a separate video, uploaded Thursday by Twitter user MoPhoPix (the handle for an app launched in 2019 by an L.A. paparazzo, Giles Harrison), an officer on the scene describes what happened between Washington and the homeless man before police arrived.

“Denzel, I guess, drove by and saw the individual on the road and was worried about his safety,” the officer says in the footage. “Denzel pulled over, got the individual out of the road and then officers were called by another person that was driving by that saw Denzel.

“We intervened, spoke with the individual and determined that he did not want to harm himself or others, and he was on his way, and Denzel left. Denzel provided him a mask to protect himself from the environment, and that was good.”

When asked if Denzel helped “frisk” the man, the officer clarified, “No, Denzel was putting some extra masks in his pockets for him to have … a very good Samaritan.”


Several commentators lauded Washington for the selfless act and lamented the outcomes of so many other confrontations among police and members of the black community that often don’t end peacefully. As of Friday morning, Chapman’s tweet has amassed nearly 100,000 likes.

“Denzel is a gentleman, scholar and a real one,” wrote ESPN editor Ericka Goodman. “Continue to give him his roses. This is the right way to help.”

“Now why can’t this happen more often? Why couldn’t George Floyd be given the same treatment???” read an additional reply. “I can’t help but wonder though what would’ve happened had Denzel not been there to help, or if he wasn’t famous.”

Washington’s viral goodwill moment comes as members of the L.A. chapter of Black Lives Matter continue to protest in the city, demanding justice for Floyd — part of a nationwide outcry against racial injustice and police brutality.

The demonstration, organized by the Los Angeles chapter of Black Lives Matter, was on a smaller scale than the day before.

May 28, 2020