Obama Called Police Officer Who Arrested Gates, Still Sees 'Overreaction' in Arrest

He also defended his decision to make remarks about the incident, saying, "The fact that this has become such a big issue I think is indicative of the fact that... race is still a troubling aspect of our society. Whether I were black or white, I think that me commenting on this and hopefully contributing to constructive, as opposed to negative, understandings about the issue is part of my portfolio."

Obama ended his remarks jokingly, saying that Crowley asked him for advice on how to get the press off his lawn.

"If anybody has any connections to the Boston press as well as national press, Sgt. Crowley would be happy for you to stop trampling his grass," Obama said.

Earlier today, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said he did not expect Obama to have anything else to say about the incident, but the president's call to Crowley and his surprise appearance reflect the White House's determination to put an end to the controversy that has dogged him since Wednesday. Obama today himself acknowledged that in the last two days, "Nobody's been paying much attention to health care."

Lawsuit On The Way?

Alan McDonald, who represents Crowley, the veteran cop who teaches a racial profiling class for rookie police officers told ABC News earlier that the sergeant had not ruled out filing a defamation of character or libel lawsuit against Gates.

"He is exploring all of his options,'' McDonald told ABC News.

Though charges were dropped, Gates has loudly asserted his arrest was a result of racial profiling.

The arrest and subsequent storm of racially charged comments has enveloped the White House after Obama said on Wednesday the Cambridge police acted "stupidly" in arresting the prominent black scholar.

In a press conference held by the Cambridge police unions and Massachusetts Municipal Police Officers Association to support Crowley, members said they hope Obama and Massachusetts Gov. Patrick Deval will apologize for their remarks. Crowley stood with them but remained silent.

McDonald argued that race "played no role in the decision making in this case," adding that it was "inappropriate" of Obama to use this case to talk about racial profiling.

When making his remarks, the president acknowledged that he had not seen all the facts in the case and what role race may have played.

While there is a history of complaints by minorities against officers at the Cambridge Police Department, experts say it's not out of the ordinary compared to other U.S. cities.

"The issues confronting Cambridge are not different from [those] in any other department," Margaret Burnham, a Northeastern University law professor who has sued the department twice, told ABC News. "These things [like the Gates case] happen across the country."

Two Sides to the Story

Crowley offered his defense in an interview with Boston television station WHDH. The police officer said he was just doing his job but that Gates continued to rant "that I was doing this because he was a black man in America, that I was a racist."

Crowley said that while he was radioing in Gates' name to the dispatcher for record, "I couldn't hear myself say it. He was yelling that loud," Crowley said.

Gates told CNN that he complied with the police officer's request for identification, but that Crowley didn't say anything or respond back and arrested him without explanation.

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