SANTA MONICA (CBSLA.com) — Santa Monica’s police chief, a black woman, is defending her officers and a 911 caller after a black executive said she was detained as a burglary suspect in her own home because of her race.
Fay Wells wrote in an article published by the Washington Post that she locked herself out of her Santa Monica apartment late one night and called a locksmith to get back inside. She was soon confronted by at least 16 police officers and detained at gunpoint after a white neighbor called 911 to report a burglary in progress, according to her account.READ MORE: Problems At The Port: Recycler Ordered To Stop Polluting Area
Wells identified herself in the Post as a vice president of strategy for an unnamed California company. The Santa Monica Police Department corroborated Wells’ basic account in a statement issued after her piece was posted Wednesday, and a spokesman said the department was investigating its officers’ response.
Santa Monica police Chief Jacqueline A. Seabrooks said in her statement she could see all sides.
“As a black woman born and raised in South-Central Los Angeles, I empathize with Ms. Fay Wells and how the experience made her feel,” Seabrooks said. “On the other hand, as an experienced law enforcement executive, I understand the Police Department’s response and the need for that response.”
Seabrooks said the neighbor was not wrong for calling 911 to report what he believed was a burglary at 11:16 p.m. on Sept. 6. The neighbor had reported seeing two women and a man and described them as “a Latino male wearing a dark hat and dark shirt and two girls, possibly Hispanic, wearing dark clothing.”
“Put yourself in his place,” Seabrooks said of the 911 caller. “Ms. Wells is not wrong to feel as she does. Put yourself in her shoes. And, the Santa Monica Police Department’s response was not wrong. Put yourself in the officers’ shoes.”
Wells said in her story that she had just come home from a soccer game and a friend had stayed with her while the locksmith did his work on her door.
An audio recording of the police officers speaking to Wells outside her apartment was included with Seabrooks’ statement.
“We got a call that someone was using tools to break into the apartment,” a male officer told Wells in the recording.READ MORE: Sheriff's Deputies Investigating Kidnapping In Palmdale
“A locksmith! I can show you the receipt,” Wells says in the recording.
“I know but – we didn’t know that,” a female officer says. “So we’re gonna – we just need to double check.”
“OK, that’s fine – go ahead, I’m sorry, I just wanna ask something,” Wells says.
“OK sure,” the female officer says.
“Why are there two people pointing guns at me when I come out of my apartment?” Wells says. “Not like, ‘hey, we wanna talk to you.’ Two people pointed guns at me when I was walking out of my apartment. And by the way, I looked out of the window because I was like, what is going on? That is not OK. I didn’t do anything, it’s not cool to have two officers to point guns at me.”
Wells wrote that when the police arrived, she was inside her apartment.
“Peering through my blinds, I saw a gun,” she wrote. “A man stood at the bottom of the stairs, pointing it at me. I stepped back and heard: ‘Come outside with your hands up.’ I thought: This man has a gun and will kill me if I don’t come outside.”
After going down the stairs, “I told the officers I didn’t want them in my apartment,” she wrote. “I said they had no right to be there. They entered anyway. One pulled me, hands behind my back, out to the street. The neighbors were watching.”
Since the encounter, Wells wrote that she deals daily with sleeplessness, confusion, anger and fear, is frightened at the sight of large dogs and has nightmares of being beaten by white men.MORE NEWS: LA Film Production Sees Boom In 2021
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