Haiti-born hip-hop star Wyclef Jean is demanding a formal investigation into racial profiling by the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department after police stopped him and handcuffed him early Tuesday morning before releasing him.
Officers said they had a report of a robbery in the area and he fit the description of the suspect.
Jean’s spokeswoman Melanie A. Bonvicino said the popular singer was subjected to “police brutality, racial profiling, police bias and the ongoing discriminatory practices of law enforcement officials which remain rampant throughout the United States and for which the LA Sheriff's office is deeming a case of mistaken identity.”
She said Jean was calling on Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, LAPD chief Charlie Beck and the LA Sheriff's Department to mount an investigation into his racial profiling allegation while also asking “the ACLU and Black Lives Matter to join him in defense of civil liberties and racial bias.”
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“He wasn’t even given a minute to think,” Bonvicino said of Jean, who is scheduled to appear on Good Morning America on Wednesday to discuss the incident.
On tour promoting his latest album, “J’Ouvert,” Jean was enroute back to his hotel from a recording session. He took to Twitter to talk about being “appalled” by the officers’ behavior — something Bonvicino wishes he hadn’t done.
“He didn’t react well,” she said.
In a statement after the incident, Jean said he was asked by police to put his hands up, then told not to move.
“I was instantly handcuffed before being asked to identify myself and before being told why,” he said.
He said he told the officers who he was and that they had the wrong person.
“They proceeded to ignore me and I was treated like a criminal,” he said. “I am sure no father wants his sons or daughters to see him in handcuffs especially if he’s innocent.”
A video of the incident shows an officer removing Jean’s trademark blue, red and white Haitian flag bandana from his head as he tried to explain to officers that he had just left a recording studio.
“Just so you all know, I am going to sue the LAPD,” he says on the video. “You took off my hat and you put the ’cuffs on me.”
It turned out later that the officers weren’t with the Los Angeles Police Department. They were from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. The incident occurred under the jurisdiction of the West Hollywood division of the sheriff’s office.
“He was not arrested,” Sgt. D. Walker of the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Department told the Miami Herald.
Walker said officers had a report of a robbery in the area where Jean was traveling, and “the description given by the victims of the robbery” of the suspect’s car was similar to the vehicle Jean was traveling in.
“He also was similar in description, all the way down to the detail that the suspect was wearing a red bandana,” Walker said.
Walker said Jean was released because “as they detained him, they got further information. He was immediately released.”
Wyclef, who started his career as a member of the Fugees with Lauryn Hill, will be performing at Kaya Fest at Bayfront Park in Miami on April 22. Hill is also being featured in the line up of the festival, which is also being promoted at marijuana-education event.