Elected officials in Massachusetts are demanding an investigation after a Black man was stopped Tuesday by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents while on a run in Boston.
Bena Apreala, 29, told WBUR he was running a few miles from his home when two SUVs with tinted windows approached him. One of the cars blocked the sidewalk in front of him and the other pulled up beside him, Apreala told the station.
“These guys just hopped out in full camouflage uniforms with masks over their face, and stopped me, and told me to immediately identify (myself),” he said. “I was confused as to whether or not they were even legitimate authority.”
At least three men, who Apreala said were white, did not identify themselves as law enforcement, but Apreala noticed an ICE badge, according to WBUR. He told them that he was a U.S. citizen born in Boston and an officer replied that he matched the description of someone they had been investigating.
“They said that immigration isn’t the only thing that they investigate and proceeded to question me,” Apreala told WBUR.
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A spokesperson for the law enforcement agency told USA TODAY Friday that its officers were involved and identified themselves as “police/ICE.”
The officers were “looking for a previously deported Haitian national with multiple criminal convictions and pending cocaine and fentanyl trafficking charges that may have been residing in the area,” the spokesperson said.
Apreala didn’t have identification with him, but he gave the men his full name and address, WBUR reported. At that point he began recording the interaction taking video that would later be shared on Facebook by his wife.
In the short clip, Apreala confirms with the three men that he was free to go and as he begins to leave one asks to see his arm.
“Do you have any tattoos on your left or right arm? So we can confirm and we’ll be out of here,” the man said.
“Am I free to go?” Apreala responded. “Do I have to show you? If I’m free to go, then I’m not showing you anything. Thank you. Have a great day, guys.”
As he walks away, he appears to tell onlookers “record this just in case.”
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Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said he spoke to Apreala and thanked him for sharing his experience on Wednesday. He called the video “extremely disturbing to watch.”
“It violates someone’s rights just because of the color of their skin and it is unacceptable,” he said on Twitter.
U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley demanded an “immediate investigation” into the incident on Twitter. Pressley, Sens. Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren, and U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch sent a letter to ICE leadership question the legality of ICE’s actions and asking for more information.
The ACLU of Massachusetts is representing Apreala and said it will investigate the incident.
“This incident raises serious constitutional questions and is disturbing on a human level,” Rahsaan Hall, director of the Racial Justice Program at the ACLU of Massachusetts, said in a statement.
The incident is one of several this year deemed “jogging while Black” that have been recorded and shared on social media.
On Feb. 23 Ahmaud Arbery, was chased and killed by three white men as he jogged through a southern Georgia neighborhood. Mathias Ometu was mistakenly identified as a domestic violence suspect and arrested while he was out for a run in San Antonio, Texas, last month. Days later, Joseph Griffin was stopped and handcuffed by police in Deltona, Florida, who said he fit the description of a wanted burglar.
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