STUDIO CITY (CBSLA.com) — A black actress from the movie “Django Unchained” says she was approached by police following a public display of affection with her white boyfriend.
Daniele Watts and her boyfriend, Brian Lucas, believe they were targeted unfairly and suspect police assumed the actress was a prostitute and he, her client.
Lucas said, “He was asking me questions like: ‘Who is she?’ ‘How do you know her?’ ‘Are you together?'”
The two have been dating for the past year and a half.
The incident in the 11900 block of Ventura Boulevard happened last Thursday in Studio City.
In cellphone video captured by her boyfriend, Watts could be seen sobbing as she pleaded with police.
“I don’t have to feel ashamed for being who I am and that’s really where the tears were coming from,” Watts told CBS2/KCAL9’s Art Barron on Sunday.
The LAPD said in a statement Sunday that officers responded to the location around 3:01 p.m. following a radio call of “indecent exposure.”
The couple learned from officers that someone at a nearby office building had called in the report. Watts had just gotten out of an interview at CBS Studios’ Radford lot and was sitting in the Mercedes-Benz on her boyfriend’s lap.
“The citizen who called the police to complain told the 911 operator that a male and a female were involved in indecent exposure inside a Silver Mercedes with the vehicle door open,” the statement alleged.
When officers arrived, police said they located two people who matched the description of the subjects.
“So, I said, ‘Well, making out is not illegal,'” Lucas said. “And the cop was like, ‘Yeah, I know, but they’re being distracted.’ Well, it’s not really our problem that we’re showing public affection, but we stopped.”
“We stopped,” Watts said.
Lucas said he gave the officers his identification when asked, but Watts refused.
“I knew that the clearest thing for me to do was to own my right as a free person and say I haven’t done anything wrong and I know I’m not required to give you my ID,” she said.
Watts walked away and another officer down the street put her in handcuffs and into the back of a patrol car, according to Lucas. Once police identified Watts, Lucas says they let them go.
Watts also posted an account of the incident on her Facebook account. In the 446-word post, she says, “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.”
She continued, “I felt his shame, his anger, and my own feelings of frustration for existing in a world where I have allowed myself to believe that ‘authority figures’ could control my BEING… my ability to BE!”
California has no law requiring people to show police their identification when not driving, according to KCAL9 Legal Analyst Steve Meister. However, if the police have reasonable suspicion, they are permitted to detain an individual for a reasonable amount of time in order to ascertain the person’s identity.
In this case, officers said they were responding to a radio call of indecent exposure.
Watts said she has hired an attorney but has no plans at this time to file a lawsuit against the police department. She said she wanted to bring this incident to light because “it’s about bringing awareness to how we can see the humanity in each other? How can we see each other as equals?”
Meanwhile, police said an internal complaint investigation has since been initiated regarding the incident.