Singer Wyclef Jean requests 'formal investigation into racial profiling' after police incident

"[They] have me in cuffs for absolutely nothing," he says.

ByABC News
March 21, 2017, 4:37 PM

— -- Rapper and businessman Wyclef Jean today requested a "formal investigation into racial profiling" after slamming police this morning for detaining him in West Hollywood, California, an incident that the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department described as “unfortunate.”

Jean, 47, initially posted a short video this morning to Twitter and Instagram, where he wrote, "LAPD another case of mistaken identity. Black man with red bandana robbed a gas station as I was in the studio working but im in handcuffs?"

The officers handcuffed him in the overnight incident and took off his Haitian bandanna, he says in the clip, while a colleague shoots the video. "[They] have me in cuffs for absolutely nothing," he says.

After a second tweet from Jean this morning, his representative issued a full statement later today asking police and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to follow up in the incident.

"After the vehicle he was being liveried in was pulled over and from which he was brutally removed from the vehicle and subject to police brutality, racial profiling, police bias and the ongoing discriminatory practices of law enforcement officials which remain rampant throughout the United States and for which the LA Sheriff's office is deeming a case of mistaken identity," his rep said in the statement.

"As such, Mr. Jean is requesting a formal investigation into racial profiling by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, LAPD chief Charlie Beck and the LA Sheriff's Department while calling upon the ACLU and Black Lives Matter to join him in defense of civil liberties and racial bias."

Garcetti's office has yet to respond to this request, but the County Sheriff’s officials did seek to set the record straight in a response, first correcting the artist that it was their department, not the LAPD, that was involved in the incident.

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department released a lengthy statement to ABC News, saying the officers were responding to a witness' description of an incident at a gas station, where the suspects allegedly pistol-whipped two pedestrians, took their belongings and then took off in a car similar to the one Jean was riding in. The police pointed out that the alleged victims could only describe the driver by his race, which police did not specify.

After the victims, who had feared "for their lives," gave the suspects their identification and money, officials said, police spotted the car Jean was in "a short distance from the crime scene."

"Deputies followed that vehicle briefly before the vehicle pulled over," the police statement added. "As deputies approached the vehicle, the occupants - driver and front passenger, almost simultaneously began to exit the vehicle. It was at this time that the deputies attempted to detain who they believed to be the suspect of the violent crime, Mr. Jean."

Jean was handcuffed "due to the violent nature of the call (armed robbery), the similarity of the suspect vehicle ... the time of day of the unfolding detention and Mr. Jean’s furtive movements and demeanor," police added.

The Haitian artist was eventually released after being detained for "approximately six minutes" and officers determined he was not the suspect, police said. The actual suspects were apprehended later four blocks away, the department said.

The suspects were driving an Acura, police said, while Jean was riding in a Toyota.

"It should be noted that during the detention of these suspects ... safety measures were also exercised, as the suspects were handcuffed and secured in the backseat of a patrol vehicle pending further investigation," the department stated.

After an initial statement from police, Jean took to Twitter a second time this morning to write, "I was asked by the police to Put my hands up. Then I was told do not move. I was instantly hand cuffed before being asked to identify myself. Nor was I told why I was being cuffed. In the process I said my name and told them they have wrong person. They proceeded to ignore me and I was treated like a criminal until other police showed up and pointed out they had wrong person."

The artist added that, "As some one who has law enforcers in my family, I was appalled by this behavior of the [police]."

Police concluded with a statement, saying, "It is unfortunate that Mr. Jean was detained for six minutes during this investigation, as he had no involvement whatsoever in this violent crime ... The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is apologetic for any inconvenience this process caused Mr. Jean. We are grateful we were able to apprehend the robbery suspects and that no one was seriously injured."