• Mon. Jan 18th, 2021

Video of Black jogger stopped by ICE agents in Boston prompts calls for investigation

A video showing federal agents stopping a Black male jogger in Boston has sparked outrage from the city’s mayor and lawmakers.

Bena Apreala told NBC Boston that he started recording when he was stopped by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcements agents while jogging in West Roxbury, Massachusetts.

Bena Apreala says the ICE agents never identified themselves and he didn’t realize who they were until he looked at their badges.Bena Apreala

NBC News could not immediately reach Apreala for comment, but the 29-year-old father and real estate agent told the NBC owned station that officers approached him without identifying themselves.

“The police officer started walking towards me, and he said, ‘Hey, stop,’ and without identifying himself, he started asking me for identification, asking me where I was from, asking me who I was, what my business was around the area,” Apreala said.

He added that he didn’t recognize who they were until he saw their ICE badges.

In the video, one federal agent can be heard asking if he has any tattoos on his left or right arm.

“Am I free to go? Do I have to show you? If I’m free to go, then I’m not showing you anything,” Apreala said in response in the video. “Thank you. Have a great day, guys.”

Bena Apreala says he started recording after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents stopped him while he was jogging on VFW Parkway in West Roxbury, Mass.Bena Apreala

It was unclear what happened before the video began recording.

A spokesperson for the Enforcement and Removal Operations, a division of ICE, confirmed with NBC News that its officers stopped a jogger in a Boston neighborhood.

“ICE officers were conducting surveillance as part of a targeted enforcement action Wednesday in West Roxbury, Massachusetts, looking for a previously deported Haitian national with multiple criminal convictions and pending cocaine and fentanyl trafficking charges that may have been residing in the area,” the organization said.

The agency said that Apreala matched the subject’s description and approached him, “identifying themselves as Police/ICE.”

After questioning him, the officers determined Apreala was not the subject of their investigation, nor did he have any additional information regarding the subject, and was free to leave the scene.

During a press conference on Wednesday, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh admonished ICE’s handling of the situation and said he was asking the city’s police department to find out more information about the incident.

“Let me be clear: racial profiling and stops like these are wrong, unjustified, and will not be tolerated,” Mayor Walsh said on Twitter Wednesday. “For him and others who might have lived through an experience like this, I’m demanding that ICE stop this cruel practice of inciting fear in the lives of our residents, particularly our Black and Brown residents, and undocumented immigrants.”

City Council member Matt O’ Malley, who represents the West Roxbury area, called the stop “unlawful.”

“This unlawful stop was outrageous & unacceptable,” O’Malley said on Twitter Tuesday. “Racial profiling should not happen here or anywhere else. I am working to follow up w/the victim & will address this issue immediately w/ federal reps.”

On Wednesday, Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., called for an investigation, also asking for details about ICE’s encounter with Apreala and requesting data on ICE stops in the Boston area.

“I am calling for an immediate investigation,” the Congresswoman said on Twitter Wednesday. “We must understand what they were doing and rationale behind their employment.”

The ACLU of Massachusetts announced on Wednesday that it was representing Apreala and said it was investigating.

“This incident raises serious constitutional questions and is disturbing on a human level,” said Rahsaan Hall, Director of the Racial Justice Program at the ACLU of Mass.

As his mother watched the video, Patricia Apreala told NBC Boston that she wasn’t sure until she called him if he had been arrested.

“I have too many videos running in my head about young Black males with law enforcement,” she said. “And it was not a pretty sight, I can tell you.”