Dave Chappelle was a 19-year-old comedian and actor who had just landed his first movie part, but instead the experience turned frightening when police mistook him for a mugger and began choking him on the set.
The incident happened more than 20 years ago, but Chappelle shared the story this week during a show at the Saenger Theatre in New Orleans. There Chappelle told the crowd that he tried to duck under police tape and enter the set, but was soon tackled by police and put in a chokehold.
DeBerry wrote the following.
“Chappelle said he was working on his ‘first movie’ here in New Orleans. He was playing a mugger, he said. He was dressed for the part. The movie set was surrounded with police tape. He ducked under it. Then a police officer set upon him and immediately started choking him.”
“According to the Internet Movie Database, Dave Chappelle played a mugger in the 1993 movie Undercover Blues, part of which was filmed in New Orleans. The movie was shot in the summer of 1992. Filming ended the same month Chappelle celebrated his 19th birthday.
“One of the women working on the set saw what was happening to the actor and yelled to the police officer that he belonged on the set. After relaxing his hold on Chappelle’s neck the police officer said, according to the comedian, ‘Well, why didn’t he say something?'”
Chappelle’s story comes amid greater scrutiny of police and their interactions with the black community. The shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, led to months of protests and the recent choking death of Eric Garner sparked even more tension. In both cases, the police officers responsible for the deaths were not indicted by grand juries.
Dave Chappelle and his story about being choked by police wasn’t the only headline-stealing moment of the night. The opening act was Hannibal Buress, the comedian whose criticism of Bill Cosby led to decade-old allegations of sexual assault to resurface.