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Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates outraged at arrest at his home

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Author Topic: Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates outraged at arrest at his home  (Read 5149 times)
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« Reply #60 on: July 27, 2009, 08:04:10 am »

                       Gates caller says she didn’t cite race - Woman laments media accounts

By John R. Ellement
and Matt Collette
Globe Staff
Globe Correspondent
July 27, 2009

The woman whose report of a possible house break-in led to the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. said she never mentioned race during her 911 call and is “personally devastated’’ by media accounts that suggest she placed the call because the men she observed on the porch were black, according to a lawyer acting as her spokeswoman.

The woman, identified in a police report on file in Cambridge District Court as 40-year-old Lucia Whalen, saw the backs of both men and did not know their race when she called 911, said Wendy J. Murphy, a Boston lawyer from New England School of Law. Whalen phoned police, Murphy said, because she was aware of recent break-ins in the area.

In an interview last night, Cambridg Commissioner Robert C. Haas said it was ac curate that Whalen did not mention race in her 911 call. He acknowledged that a police report of the incident did include a race reference. The report says Whalen observed “what appeared to be two black males with backpacks on the front porch’’ of a Ware Street home on July 16.

That reference is there, said Haas, because the police report is a summary. Its descriptions - like the race of the two men - were collected during the inquiry, not necessarily from the initial 911 call, he said.

The events of July 16 - when Gates was arrested at his home for disorderly conduct by Police Sergeant James Crowley, who responded to the 911 call - remain a matter of discussion, even as both sides seek to put the issue to rest. Tapes made during the incident may illuminate some of what happened.

Hass said yesterday that he expects some version of the tapes to be released in the next few days.

Race has become the central concern in what began as a report of a possible break-in. Whalen, walking from her office nearby, grew suspicious when she saw two men trying to force open the door of the home, according to the report.

The two men turned out to be Gates, who was unable to open his front door, and his driver, who assisted Gates in opening the door and left.

“People are making their own judgments about the case and assuming that she called police because they were black,’’ Murphy said yesterday in a telephone interview. “That sentiment is permeating the stories, and it ties directly to her involvement, even though the truth is she didn’t report seeing black men and she didn’t know the men’s race when she called 911.’’

In an interview at police headquarters last night, Haas said “it was very clear that she wasn’t sure’’ what the men’s race was. He also said that when the dispatcher questioned Whalen for more details, she told police she could only guess about the race of the two men. “She speculated . . . that one might be Hispanic.’’
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