July 23, 2009— -- Sgt. James Crowley, the officer who arrested Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. in his home earlier this week, doesn't see color. Or at least that's what he told ABC Boston affiliate WCVB TV.
Crowley, the Cambridge, Mass., officer now taking heat over the Gates arrest, told WCVB that he tried to save the life of the African-American Boston Celtics star, Reggie Lewis, when he collapsed at a team practice 16 years ago. Lewis died of possible heart complications in 1993, after passing out during a practice at Brandeis University.
"I wasn't working on Reggie Lewis the basketball star, I wasn't working on a black man. I was working on another human being," Crowley told WCVB.
Gates was arrested last week on charges of disorderly conduct after Crowley responded to a report of a break-in at Gates' home.The charges were later dropped.
Since then Gates has accused Crowley and his fellow officers of being racist and told CNN that Crowley was unable to "stand a black man standing up for his rights, right in his face."
Gates was supported by President Obama Wednesday night during a White House press conference intended to be primarily about health care. In the final question of the night, Obama was asked what he thought of the Gates incident.
"I think it's fair to say, number one, any of us would be pretty angry; number two, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home; and, number three, what I think we know separate and apart from this incident is that there's a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately. That's just a fact," Obama said.
Crowley, who defends his actions as appropriate, voiced disappointment at the president's comments this morning on WEEI, a Boston sports-radio station, according to the WCVB.
"He is the president of the United States. I support the president to a point. I think it's disappointing that he waded into what should be a local issue," Crowley said. "I think it was very disappointing," he said on air.
Gates has demanded an apology from Crowley that's he's unlikely to get. "There are not many certainties in life, but it is for certain that Sgt. Crowley will not be apologizing," the officer told WCVB in a statement.