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Police chief apologizes to Black man detained in Virginia

December 22, 2020 GMT

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) — A viral video showing an officer handcuffing a Black man at Virginia mall as he and his family were eating has prompted a review of the incident by the city’s police department and a public apology from the police chief.

The video shared Sunday on Instagram by activist and writer Shaun King shows an officer detaining the man as he was eating with his family at Virginia Beach’s Lynnhaven Mall. It has since garnered more than 2 million views.

The city’s police department said officers were investigating an “offense” at the mall, and that man had “matched the description of the reported suspect.” Another man was subsequently arrested and charged with credit card fraud and receiving stolen goods, Virginia Beach Police Chief Paul Neudigate said Monday during a news conference.

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A woman who was with the detained man could be heard telling police they got the wrong person. “What did he do?” she asked during the encounter, and tells police the two were at the mall with their children.

“Are you serious right now?” the handcuffed man asked the officer as he was escorted out of the building before being released a short time later.

“I know everyone is looking for immediate answers,” The Virginian-Pilot quotes Neudigate as saying. “But it is imperative we get as much information as possible.”

The review will see if the arresting officer followed department policy and whether detaining the man was appropriate under the circumstances, the police chief said. He said officers are in the early stages of the investigation and it was “too early” for them to “say right or wrong.”

“We just want to let the community know that their voices are being heard,” Neudigate said.

The officer who handcuffed the Black man apologized to the pair after releasing him. “I understand it’s embarrassing, I sincerely apologize,” he said. “You have the right to be upset, sir,” he added as the man shouted in anger.

When the woman asked for an explanation during the incident, the officer told her police were looking for a “Black male with dreads that was wearing all black and was with a boy that was wearing red.”

“Certainly, anyone would be upset about being detained for something they didn’t do,” Neudigate said in a Sunday statement announcing the review. “While the video shows the officer stayed calm and respectful throughout the brief encounter, we must ensure the situation merits the response. We are gathering all the facts to evaluate the incident so we can address the concerns people have raised.”

The man who was detained could be heard saying this kind of treatment is why people say “Black Lives Matter.”