Prominent Black Scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Sees Charges Dropped

Photo: Prominent Black Scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Sees Charges Dropped: Cops: Incident Was Not Gates Best Moment

Massachusetts authorities today dropped disorderly conduct charges against prominent Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., calling his arrest last week "regrettable and unfortunate."

"This incident should not be viewed as one that demeans the character and reputation of Professor Gates or the character of the Cambridge Police Department," said Cambridge Police Department Spokeswoman Kelly Downes in a prepared joint statement by the City of Cambridge, the Cambridge Police Department and Mr. Gates.

"All parties agree that this is a just resolution to an unfortunate set of circumstances," said Downes.

At a press conference this afternoon Downes went on to say that she still believed there was "probable cause" for Gates' arrest.

 Video: Harvard professor cites racism as reason for his arrest.
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"I think what went wrong personally is that you had two human beings that were reacting to a set of circumstances, and unfortunately at the time cooler heads did not prevail," said Downes.

"I think both parties were wrong," said Downes. "I think that's fair to say. It wasn't Professor Gates' best moment. and it was not the Cambridge Police Department's best moment."

Gates, 58, was charged with disorderly conduct after when on July 16 police responded to a call about someone apparently trying to break into his Cambridge, Mass., home.

Gates, who according to his lawyer had been trying to force open a jammed door, was inside the house when the Cambridge police officer got there.

Asked about allegations that Gates' arrest was racially fueled, Downes said, "Our position is very firmly that race did not play any factor at all in the arrest of Mr. Gates."

At the time of his arrest, Gates allegedly responded to the officer's request for identification by shouting, "Why, because I am a black man in America?" and calling him a racist.

Though Gates eventually identified himself, he was arrested after he allegedly came out of the house and continued yelling at police, even after he was warned that he "was becoming disorderly," according to the police report.

Downes said that she hoped Gates' arrest will be a learning experience for the Cambridge Police Department.

Gates, the director of Harvard's W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, and former host of the PBS show "African American Lives," had just returned from a trip to China and found the front door of his home jammed, according to his Harvard colleague and attorney Charles Ogletree.

He entered the house through the back door, but then tried to get the front door open so he could bring his luggage in, which may have been when the woman who called 911 saw, Ogletree said.

Gates has declined to discuss the incident, but Al Sharpton, who spoke to the Harvard professor, told ABC News that Gates is "clearly upset and in a state of disbelief."

Before the announcement today, the Cambridge Police Department had refused to comment on the arrest, but a high-ranking Cambridge police official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told ABC News Monday that racism played no role in the arrest and said that rather than police harassing Gates, it was the Harvard professor who harassed the cop.

"We weren't going there to bother the guy. We were going there because we got a 911 call of house break-in in progress,'' the official said.

The caller said that there was a man using his shoulder to break down the door of Gates' home, the official said.

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