Black father wrongfully detained by police calls treatment 'dehumanizing'

BILL HUTCHINSON
·5 min read

A Black father is condemning what he described as a "dehumanizing" experience he endured over the weekend when he was mistaken for a credit card fraud suspect by a white Virginia police sergeant, who handcuffed him in front of his fiancee and two children as they ate at a mall food court.

In an interview on ABC's "Good Morning America" on Tuesday, Jamar Mackey characterized the incident at a Virginia Beach shopping mall as blatant racial profiling by police officers.

"It's just like ... nothing has changed. How is everything still the same? How do you still racially profile a Black man with dreads that way in 2020? How do you do that? It's still happening in this day to Black men," said Mackey, sitting next to his fiancee, Shantel Covil, whose cellphone video of the police encounter has since gone viral on social media.

The episode marked the latest in a string of incidents in which Black people have been arrested or had 911 complaints lodged against them for seemingly going about their normal lives, doing things like barbecuing in a park, playing golf and entering an apartment building where they live.

PHOTO: Shantel Covil and her fiancee Jamar Mackey appear on ABC's 'Good Morning America,' Dec. 22, 2020, about Mackey being handcuffed while eating at a food court at a shopping mall on Dec. 19, 2020, in Virginia Beach, Va. (ABC News)
PHOTO: Shantel Covil and her fiancee Jamar Mackey appear on ABC's 'Good Morning America,' Dec. 22, 2020, about Mackey being handcuffed while eating at a food court at a shopping mall on Dec. 19, 2020, in Virginia Beach, Va. (ABC News)

Mackey's ordeal unfolded on Saturday as he, Covil and their 13-year-old son and baby were seated at a table in the Lynnhaven Mall food court eating lunch and "trying to enjoy the holidays."

"And next, you know, I'm in handcuffs. No words, no explanation," Mackey said.

In the video taken by Covil, a white Virginia Beach police sergeant is seen handcuffing Mackey as he sat at the table, saying, "I want to talk to you, OK?" and mentioning something about a suspect in a black truck.

"Y'all got the wrong person. We don't even have a black truck," Covil is heard in the video telling the sergeant, who was not wearing a protective mask.

The sergeant, according to the video, then told the visibly angry Mackey to stand up.

"You're going to do this in public, make me walk outside in front of my family?" Mackey told the sergeant, who proceeded to grab onto Mackey's arm and lead him through the crowded food court and out the front door, where they were met by other police officers, who were also not wearing masks.

PHOTO: Jamar Mackey is put in handcuffs while eating with his fiancee and their 13-year-old son in the food court at a shopping mall in Virginia Beach, Va., Dec. 19, 2020, after he was mistaken for a suspect in a credit card theft. (Shantel Covil/Facebook)
PHOTO: Jamar Mackey is put in handcuffs while eating with his fiancee and their 13-year-old son in the food court at a shopping mall in Virginia Beach, Va., Dec. 19, 2020, after he was mistaken for a suspect in a credit card theft. (Shantel Covil/Facebook)

"Are you serious right now, dawg?" Mackey is heard yelling at the sergeant, while Covil asked him, "What are you doing? We are here with our family."

Once outside, Mackey and Covil appealed to another white officer, telling him repeatedly that they have the wrong person. "Maybe you are the wrong person," the officer responded, telling Mackey to "calm down" and "relax."

After getting on his radio, the sergeant told Mackey that he was indeed the wrong man but briefly kept Mackey in handcuffs while saying "give me one minute" to explain.

Mackey demanded the handcuffs be removed immediately and the sergeant complied, telling Mackey that he matched the description of a credit card fraud suspect with dreadlocks and dressed all in black.

“I sincerely apologize. It was a complete misunderstanding," the sergeant told Mackey, according to the video.

As Mackey and Covil continued to protest the police action, the sergeant attempted to justify his response.

“If he was using stolen credit cards and had a stolen vehicle then I wouldn’t have talked to him about it. I would have just taken him into custody and detained him," the sergeant says in the video.

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Mackey said on Tuesday that seeing the video again "hurts me."

"What if he had shot me in front of my son or Tased me in front of my son, like for no reason?" Mackey said.

PHOTO: Jamar Mackey is put in handcuffs and escorted out of a shopping mall in Virginia Beach, Va., Dec. 19, 2020, after he was mistaken for a suspect in a credit card theft. (Shantel Covil/Facebook)
PHOTO: Jamar Mackey is put in handcuffs and escorted out of a shopping mall in Virginia Beach, Va., Dec. 19, 2020, after he was mistaken for a suspect in a credit card theft. (Shantel Covil/Facebook)

Covil added that she's concerned about their 13-year-old son who witnessed his father being wrongfully detained.

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"I don't know if he'll be afraid of the police now or I feel like, you know, just not care for them because of what he saw," Covil said.

Virginia Beach Police Chief Paul Neudigate issued a public apology to Mackey during a news conference on Monday.

"No one wants to be handcuffed in front of their family like the officer did on Saturday," Neudigate said. "We have to be able to apologize when our actions greatly inconvenience a member of the community that we serve. So, let me take this opportunity to personally extend my apology to Mr. Mackey for this incident."

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He said a 28-year-old Black suspect with dreadlocks was subsequently arrested on suspicion of using stolen credit cards at the mall.

The chief added, "We are also following up on the understanding that a possible third party may have identified Mr. Mackey as a potential suspect."

Neudigate did not release the names of the officers involved or say if they will face discipline. He said the officers were not equipped with body cameras.

The chief said the investigation is focusing on whether the initial approach and stop of Mackey and the use of handcuffs on him were justified.

The incident has prompted the group Black Lives Matter 757 to organize a protest scheduled for Tuesday evening outside the Virginia Beach Police Department.

While Mackey has yet to take legal action against the police department, he has retained attorney Don Scott to explore any legal recourse.

"Everybody in this region knows this is how you get treated. This is how Black males get treated in Virginia Beach," Scott said on "GMA." "So, this is what we hope to be able to change."

Black father wrongfully detained by police calls treatment 'dehumanizing' originally appeared on abcnews.go.com