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

Mass. police call incident "regrettable and unfortunate."

ByABC News
July 20, 2009, 9:22 PM

July 21, 2009— -- 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.

"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.