IOWA CITY, Iowa - A University of Iowa football player says he was playing "Pokemon Go" in a public park when he was mistaken for a suspected bank robber, surrounded by police and searched at gunpoint.
Faith Ekakitie wrote on Facebook that he feared for his life Wednesday in Iowa City. He explained that a bank had been robbed nearby and that he matched the suspect's description of a "large black male, wearing all black, with something on top of his head." He said he was wearing goggles on his head at the time.
Ekakitie said he understands why police did what they did, and that he blames the media for fearing for his life. He said he had headphones in and didn't respond to police commands. He thanked Iowa City police for their professionalism.
A police spokesman chalks up the episode to "unfortunate timing."
Tensions between police and the African American community have been high in recent weeks, with a series of shootings of police officers, as well as unarmed black men by police.
On its website, Iowa athletics says the 6'3", 290-pound Ekakitie is a senior from Brampton, Ontario, who, in 2015, "saw action in 12 games, recording 13 tackles, including 1.5 tackles for loss, and one fumble recovery."
Full text of Ekakitie's Facebook post:
"Today was the first time that I’ve ever truly feared for my life, and I have the media to thank for that.
Today I was surrounded and searched by approximately five Iowa City Police Officers. My pockets were checked, my backpack was opened up and searched carefully, and I was asked to lift up my shirt while they searched my waistband. Not once did they identify themselves to me as Iowa City Police officers, but with four gun barrels staring me in the face, I wouldn’t dare question the authority of the men and woman in front of me. This is what happened from my point of view.
From the police officers point of view, all they knew was that a bank had just been robbed less than ten minutes ago. The suspect was a large black male, wearing all black, with something on top of his head and the suspect is armed. As they drive past an Iowa City park that was less than 3 minutes away from the bank that was just robbed, they notice a large black man, dressed in all black, with black goggles on his head. They quickly move to action and identify themselves as the Iowa City police and ask me to turn around and place my hands up. I do not comply, they ask again, and again no response from me. So they all draw their guns and begin to slowly approach the suspect.
In this situation, what the media would fail to let people know is that the suspect had his headphones in the entire time the Police Officers approached him initially. The suspect had actually just pulled up to the park because he was playing a newly popular Game called Pokémon Go. The suspect didn’t realize that there were four cops behind him because his music was blaring in his ears. The suspect had reached into his pockets, for something which was his phone, but for all the cops could have known, he was reaching for a gun. The suspect could very well become another statistic on this day. I am not one to usually rant on Facebook or anywhere else, but with all of the crazy things that have been happening in our world these past couple of weeks it is hard to stay silent. I am thankful to be alive, and I do now realize, that it very well could have been me, a friend of mine, my brother, your cousin, your nephew etc.
Misunderstandings happen all the time and just like that things can go south very quickly. It is extremely sad that our society has brainwashed us all to the point where we can’t feel safe being approached by the police officers in our respective communities. Not all police officers are out to get you, but at the same time, not all people who fit a criminal profile are criminals.
So with that, I would like the thank the Iowa City Police department for handling a sensitive situation very professionally. I would also urge people to be more aware of their surroundings because clearly I wasn’t. Lastly, I would urge us all to at least to attempt to unlearn some of the prejudices that we have learned about each other and now plague our minds and our society. I am convinced that in the same way that we learned these prejudices, we can also unlearn them."
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