Gates' 911 Caller Says She Never Mentioned Race to Sgt. Crowley

The woman whose 911 call led to Gates' arrest says she was threatened.

ByABC News
July 29, 2009, 11:53 AM

July 29, 2009— -- The woman whose 911 call led the police to Henry Louis Gates Jr.'s house and triggered a national uproar about cops and minorities said today she had been threatened and unfairly characterized although she never mentioned race to the police.

A tearful Lucia Whalen said at a news conference today that "now that the tapes are out, I hope people can see that I tried to be careful and honest with my words. It never occurred to me that the way I reported what I saw be analyzed in an entire nation."

Whalen, 40, said the only words she exchanged with the arresting officer, Sgt. James Crowley, was identifying that she was the 911 caller and he told her to "stay right there."

Whalen, who said she has faced threats and charges of racism, said she would do the same thing again if she had to.

Gates and Crowley will meet with President Obama tomorrow at the White House for a round of beers to talk about the incident. The president will drink Bud Light, Gibbs told reporters today. Gates has said he likes Red Stripe and Crowley mentioned to the president he prefers Blue Moon.

"So we'll have the gamut covered tomorrow afternoon," Gibbs added.

Weather permitting, the three will hoist a cold one on the picnic table next to the White House's new swing set.

Whalen's attorney, Wendy Murphy, took a jab at the president's "beer diplomacy" at the press conference.

"The three highly trained guys who reacted badly are getting together for a beer," Murphy said. "The one person whose actions have been exemplary will be at work tomorrow in Cambridge. I don't know -- maybe it's a guy thing. She doesn't like beer anyway."

Crowley arrested Gates, former host of the PBS show "African-American Lives," on charges of disorderly conduct on June 16. Gates, returning from a trip to China, was trying to get into his Cambridge, Mass., house after being locked out.

In her 911 call, Whalen reported seeing two men break the screen door of Gates' front entrance to enter the house. The woman admitted she saw suitcases, and said several times she's not sure whether the two were the house's residents or were breaking in.

When asked about the race of the men, the caller said she thought one looked "kind of Hispanic" but didn't see what the other man looked like.

The charges were later dropped, but Gates claims Crowley treated him unfairly and would not respond to his requests for his badge number.

Crowley says the professor was loud, accused him of arresting Gates because he "was a black man in America," and even made a reference to Crowley's mother.

A Wall Street Journal/NBC poll to be released today found that 29 percent of Americans thought both men were equally at fault. Twenty-seven percent said they felt the Harvard professor was more at fault, compared to 11 percent who blamed Crowley. The largest group, 31 percent, said they don't know enough about the incident to formulate an opinion.

The president jumped into the heated debate last week when he said the Cambridge police department acted "stupidly" in arresting his friend, who uses a cane.

The president later clarified his remarks, saying that cooler heads should have prevailed on both sides, and turned it into what he called a "teachable moment" for the country.

Crowley will be traveling to Washington on Thursday with his wife, three kids and his union president Sgt. Dennis O'Connor. The Cambridge Superior Officers Association is paying for their trip, two law enforcement sources told ABC News.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs has said the session will not have a formal agenda, but will offer the opportunity to "step back a bit" and have a dialogue.