Fame and celebrity

Why am I in handcuffs, asks singer Wyclef Jean, after being mistaken for robbery suspect

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 March, 2017, 10:27am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 March, 2017, 10:27am

“Why am I in handcuffs?”

That was what Grammy-winning singer and philanthropist Wyclef Jean asked Los Angeles police early Tuesday morning after he was stopped on his way home from a late night in the studio. Video of the incident was soon posted to his Instagram and Twitter accounts.

“LAPD another case of mistaken identity,” his post read. “Black man with red bandana robbed a gas station as I was in the studio working but (I’m) in handcuffs?”

“They just took off my Haitian bandana,” he said in the first video, adding, “The LAPD have me in cuffs for absolutely nothing.”

In a second video, which appears to have been shot by someone else in the car, Wyclef can be heard telling the officers that he was a recording artist on his way back from the studio, asking one of the people he was with to provide the address of the studio and saying that he’ll sue the LAPD.

Wyclef was actually pulled over by the LA County Sheriff’s Department, a fact confirmed by Wyclef’s manager, Jerry Blair, and the West Hollywood Police. That neighbourhood is considered a city unto itself and not part of Los Angeles proper. Smaller unincorporated cities often augment their police forces by contracting with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

The LAPD later tweeted that they were not involved in the incident.

Sergeant D. Walker with the West Hollywood station, which is handling media inquiries about the case, said both Wyclef and his vehicle matched the description of an armed robbery suspect in the area and that the singer was detained for approximately 10 minutes but not arrested while sheriff’s deputies on the scene conferred with the robbery victim. He was released after they determined that they had the wrong man.

Hours after the incident, Wyclef resumed tweeting and provided more details.

“I was asked by the police to put my hands up,” he recounted. “Then I was told do not move. I was instantly handcuffed before being asked to identify myself. Nor was I told why I was being cuffed. In the process, I said my name and told them they have the wrong person. They proceeded to ignore me and I was treated like a criminal until other police showed up and pointed out they had the wrong person.”

He continued, “I am sure no father wants his sons or daughters to see him in handcuffs, especially if he is innocent. As someone who has law enforcers in his family, I was appalled by this behaviour of the LAPD.”

Wyclef’s manager quoted his tweets in a statement and acknowledged that the police did apologize — “after handcuffing him.”