A Los Angeles police sergeant on Monday defended his role in handcuffing and detaining an actress who claimed she was mistreated because of her race, saying he responded to a routine call that escalated when the woman refused to identify herself.
The LAPD has been criticized for Thursday’s detention of “Django Unchained” actress Daniele Watts and her boyfriend, celebrity chef Brian James Lucas, in Studio City. Lucas wrote on Facebook that police acted as though the couple were engaged in prostitution because Lucas is white and Watts is black.
But LAPD Sgt. Jim Parker, who responded to the call, said the thought “never crossed his mind.” In an interview with The Times, Parker said he approached the couple because they matched a 911 caller’s description of two people having sex in a car parked on Radford Avenue.
“I figured I could take care of this call and go get coffee and that was it,” Parker said, calling the incident a “long, drawn-out drama.”
“I was trying to ID them and leave – nobody wanted them arrested for having sex in public,” he said. “But then she went into her tirade.”WARNING: Audio contains obscenities - Actress Daniele Watts questioned by LAPD
Lt. Andrew Neiman, a department spokesman, said officers contacted Watts and Lucas after receiving a 911 call complaining that a couple were having sex in a parked car on the street with the door open. The 911 caller described the couple as a black woman wearing a shirt and floral shorts, and a white man with a black tank top, Neiman said.
Lucas and Watts did not return calls or text messages Monday from The Times, despite previously agreeing to an interview. The couple told CNN they stood by their actions and believed they did nothing wrong. Watts said she did not regret refusing to hand Parker her ID.
“I still feel strongly like I didn’t have to,” she said. “I feel that it raises awareness. I’m thankful for the experience. Not to say that I feel like I have to go through it again. But it’s causing a lot of discussion.”
A 24-minute audio recording obtained by The Times and verified by a law enforcement source familiar with the incident captures the encounter. Parker can be heard asking Lucas for his ID as Watts speaks to her father on the phone. When she stops the conversation to ask what’s going on, Parker explains he was called to the scene in response to a call of “lewd acts.”
Watts insisted the couple had done nothing wrong.
“Somebody called, which gives me the right to be here, so it gives me the right to identify you by law,” Parker said, according to the recording, which was first published by celebrity news site TMZ.
“Do you know how many times I’ve been called, the cops have been called just for being black?” Watts said. “Just because we’re black and he’s white? I’m just being really honest, sir.”
“Who brought up the race card?” Parker said.
“I’m bringing it up,” she said.
“I said nothing about you being black,” the sergeant responded.
Parker said that although Lucas presented his identification, Watts refused and walked away. LAPD officials verified his account.
“Thank you for bringing up the race card,” Parker said. “I never hear that.”