I-Team: Harlem Doctor Claims Arrest by NYPD Was Racially Motivated - NBC New York
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I-Team: Harlem Doctor Claims Arrest by NYPD Was Racially Motivated

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Harlem Doctor Alleges Arrest Over Race

    A prominent Harlem doctor and business owner says he and two of his employees were falsely arrested by NYPD officers when they were actually victims. Now they've filed a federal lawsuit. Sarah Wallace reports.

    (Published Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018)

    A prominent doctor and Harlem businessman is giving new details about what he calls a shocking false arrest by the NYPD.

    Dr. Clyde Pemberton, CEO of the MIST entertainment venue in Harlem, said on June 1, 2017, he was having a business meeting in the front section of the café when two women appeared from the restroom area, dragging an unconscious friend along the floor.

    "I went to try and give aid. One woman dropped the wrist and punched me in my chest," he told the I-Team.

    Two employees, Thomas Debnam and Christian Baptiste, said in an exclusive interview that they also tried to help but one of the women, who was white, began to get verbally and physically abusive.

    "She repeatedly called us the N-word, told us to go back to the Congo, to the jungle," Debnam said.

    Baptiste claimed he was hit in the head with the purse. "I was blindsided," he said.

    The three said they called 911 and were relieved when officers from the 28th pct. arrived. Pemberton said he approached an NYPD supervisor in a white shirt and tried to explain that he had a medical background.

    "He interrupted me and said, 'You’re not a physician or any s--- like that tonight,'" Pemberton said. 

    The men said they were put in handcuffs and a patrol car with no explanation and spent the next several hours in the precinct. They were all charged with unlawful imprisonment. One of the women told police officers that the two employees physically prevented her from leaving the venue.

    The criminal charges were dismissed several months later. The three men have now filed a federal lawsuit, claiming their civil rights were violated because they are black.

    One of the women was charged with misdemeanor assault and did community service but the men’s attorney said that action doesn’t justify the false arrest of her clients.

    "You can’t just round people up and sort it out later without probable cause they have committed a crime," said Elizabeth Saylor, of emery Celli Brinkerhoff & Abady LLC. "That’s illegal," she added.

    Debnam said, "I feel robbed. It should never have happened." 

    Pemberton, who is a legal permanent resident of the U.S. and not a citizen, said that even though the criminal charges have been dismissed, he has repeatedly been pulled out of lines while traveling through area airports, and interrogated by immigration. 

    The NYPD referred the I-Team’s inquiries to the NYC law department, which did not respond to emails. 

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