Friday started out as a good day for TV producer Charles Belk, who was in Beverly Hills for a pre-Emmy party. Then he wound up handcuffed and in custody for six hours because police mistakenly thought he robbed a bank. They have now sort of apologized for their massive oops.
Belk detailed the incident and the aftermath on his Facebook page, which you can read by clicking here. His post has been shared more than 33,000 times.
People are starting to share stories on his Facebook page of their own similar run-ins with police.
“It’s one of those things that you hear about, but never think it would happen to you,” he wrote.
He says that he had just left a restaurant on Wilshire Boulevard and walking to his car to check the parking meter when he was suddenly surrounded by police and told to sit on the curb.
Police were investigating an armed bank robbery that had just occurred and arrested Belk because he “matched the physical characteristics of the second suspect and was in the area of the bank shortly after the robbery,” the Beverly Hills Police Department said in a statement on Monday.
A witness then identified Belk as the second suspect, according to the news release.
“I get that the Beverly Hills Police Department didn’t know at the time that I was a law abiding citizen of the community and that in my 51 years of existence, had never been handcuffed or arrested for any reason,” Belk wrote on Facebook.
“All they saw, was someone fitting the description. Doesn't matter if he's a ‘Taye Diggs BLACK,’ a ‘LL Cool J BLACK,’ or ‘Drake BLACK ...
“I get that the Beverly Hills Police Department didn’t know that I was a well educated American citizen that had received a B.S. in electrical engineering from the University of Southern California, an MBA from Indiana University … and an executive leadership certificate from Harvard Business School.
“Hey, I was ‘tall,’ ‘bald,’ a ‘male’ and ‘black,’ so I fit the description ...
“What I don’t get………WHAT I DONT GET, is, why, during the 45 minutes that they had me on the curb, handcuffed in the sun, before they locked me up and took away my civil rights, that they could not simply review the ATM and bank’s HD video footage to clearly see that the ‘tall, bald headed, black male’… did not fit MY description.”
Belk wrote that within an hour he was photographed, fingerprinted and had bail set for $100,000. He claims that he was also denied his right to make a phone call.
While he was in custody police interviewed other witnesses and surveillance tape and determined he was not the man they were looking for.
In a statement issued to the Huffington Post, one of the first media outlets to report the incident, the Beverly Hills police department came close to apologizing.
“The Beverly Hills Police Department deeply regrets the inconvenience to Mr. Belk and has reached out to him to express those regrets and further explain the circumstances,” the statement read.
“However, based on witness accounts, and his location close to the bank, officers properly detained and arrested him based on the totality of the circumstances known at the time of the field investigation.
“The Police Department protocol requires that they go through the process of thoroughly verifying that Mr. Belk was not the suspect before releasing him. That process included taking witness statements, coordination with the FBI and Los Angeles Police detectives who were investigating the earlier bank robberies, and examination of the surveillance video from the bank. Police are still searching for the second suspect.”
Belk has started giving interviews to the media about the incident, writing on his Facebook page that “I’m a behind the scenes kind of a guy, but I have accepted the task of trying to lend a voice to the many Black males that did not get a chance to be heard! #fitthedescription #timeforachange.”