'Profiling is real': Former Obama staffer mistaken as burglar while moving into New York City apartment

Someone called 911 on him, claiming he had a large weapon.

May 2, 2018, 7:09 PM

A former White House staffer for the Obama administration said he was "racially profiled" after authorities were called for an active burglary while he was moving into his new apartment in New York City.

Darren Martin and a friend were hauling boxes from the moving truck into the Upper West Side building Friday night when a neighbor called police, he told ABC News today.

"Somebody called the cops on me in my own building," Martin said in a video he posted on Instagram Live that day.

Martin, who had been wearing a hoodie earlier in the day, told ABC News he was already aware of how he may be perceived in the "largely white" and gentrified neighborhood. Although he figured that nobody would be suspicious of him since he was clearly moving his possessions from the U-Haul truck in his apartment, the thought still lingered in the back of his mind, he said.

As Martin continued to move boxes from the lobby to his fifth-floor walkup, he saw a police squad car pull up in front of his building.

"As soon as they pull up, I knew that they were here for me," he said.

In the video, Martin said he had just moved from Washington D.C. to his apartment in New York City, located on West 106th Street.

Once officers were inside, they asked if Martin lived there and for his identification, he told ABC News. Martin then asked for permission to check his pockets, and once he realized his ID wasn't there, he asked if he could go to his apartment to retrieve it.

Martin became visibly aggravated after cops told him he could only go back into his apartment after they were done with their "investigation."

"We have to do an investigation further," one cop can be heard saying in the video claiming someone called them. "Listen, if you do nothing wrong then you’re good to go."

"What are you guys investigating?” Martin said. "Who called you? Somebody in the building or somebody who saw a black man moving his stuff?"

At one point, Martin feared for his life after more officers responded to the scene and he was surrounded by six or seven officers in the cramped hallway, he told ABC News.

In the video, the officers proceeded to explain to Martin why they were there by allowing him to hear the radio dispatcher's message that sent them to the building.

"Someone trying to break into the door...banging on doors...possibly a weapon, large tool," the dispatcher can be heard saying in the video.

"Now you know why we’re here," one officer is then seen telling Martin.

Police then completed their investigations in about 10 to 15 minutes and let Martin go, he told ABC News.

Martin told ABC News that he started recording after officers went up to his apartment to speak to his friend, who was getting ready to go to an event at the time of the incident. He documented the encounter to decrease the chances of him getting into a "bad situation" and to show people "the kinds of things that we go through."

"I'm a black man moving into my neighborhood, and I can't even do that without someone profiling me," he said.

Martin clarified that the incident wasn't a case of police brutality and that the officers "were there doing their jobs."

"But, that was the issue, right? They came there from a call that was false that was based on assumptions and based on, really, profiling."

Martin said he "got lucky" because the situation could have been deadly, especially since the officers were looking for "a suspect who's an armed robber."

"Profiling is real," he said. "It's dangerous, and it can have deadly consequences."

PHOTO: Former Obama staffer Darren Martin says he was racially profiled when he was mistaken as a burglar while moving into his New York City apartment.
Former Obama staffer Darren Martin says he was racially profiled when he was mistaken as a burglar while moving into his New York City apartment.
ABC News

Martin has not met any of his neighbors or received an apology from the neighbor who called 911, he said.

"If they had opened the door and asked me who I was, gotten to know me, I think ... none of this would have happened, and I would have make a friend in the building," he said, adding that it would have been "the neighborly thing to do."

Martin emphasized that black men and women go through profiling situations "on a daily basis" He advised that others who experience profiling to raise awareness by documenting the incidents on their cell phones, calling the tool a "luxury" people did not have in the past.

"Tell your story when this happens," he said. Let other people know that this is a daily occurrence for us."

Martin formerly worked for the White House office for legislative affairs as well as the White House office for presidential correspondence under Obama, he said. He now works for the city of New York, he said.

The New York Police Department released a statement to ABC News that affirming after officers concluded their "investigation," there were no signs of crime.

"Officers conducted an investigation, speaking to persons present and determined there was not a burglary at the location," Lieutenant John Grimpel said in the statement. "The job was marked non-crime committed."

ABC News' Armando Garcia contributed to this report.