A Black athlete of the University of Iowa, Faith Ekakitie, gets approached by several officers, guns drawn. Why? For playing Pokémon GO?
After his scary Pokémon GO experience, Ekakitie — an African-American defensive lineman for the Iowa Hawkeyes — recalled his ordeal via Facebook.
While shaken, Faith Ekakitie elaborated how things happened all-of-a-sudden during his Pokémon GO hunt.
Iowa DL Faith Ekakitie Held at Gunpoint by Police While Playing 'Pokemon Go' pic.twitter.com/SWqtbty1jP— Great-Stuff (@Splurgehub) July 24, 2016
In a phrase that retired New York Police Officer Frank Serpico mentions policemen loosely use, Ekakitie states that he feared for his life.
Likewise, Faith noted that it would’ve been just the type of situation certain media outlets would’ve attempted to twist, excluding the fact that he was wearing headphones as the officers approached him from behind.
Prior to those details, the Black Pokémon GO player explains as follows.
“Today I was surrounded and searched by approximately five Iowa City Police Officers. My pockets were checked, my backpack was opened up and searched carefully, and I was asked to lift up my shirt while they searched my waistband. Not once did they identify themselves to me as Iowa City Police officers, but with four gun barrels staring me in the face, I wouldn’t dare question the authority of the men and woman in front of me. This is what happened from my point of view.”
All in all, in Faith Ekakitie’s account, he thanked the police officers for doing their jobs and staying professional during the encounter.
However, things could’ve turned for the worse concerning Faith — all from a generalized police description.
According to ESPN, Iowa City Police Sergeant Jorey Bailey mentions that Ekakitie fit the call.
And, what was that call?
“Black and also dressed in black clothes,” says the source.
A call had gone out that a nearby bank had been robbed 10 minutes prior to their encounter.
In essence, this is the type of thing Black parents worry about as their children play normal games like Pokémon GO, just as everyone else.
Although these officers were definitely doing their job, Faith Ekakitie fit a very generalized description. And, in Ekakitie’s account, they thought he was armed as well.
While playing Pokémon GO and enjoying his music, what if these officers had been giving Ekakitie an order to get on the ground. Yet, by not hearing them and reaching into his pocket to change songs, these police officer might have thought Faith was reaching for a weapon, instead.
In the Black defensive lineman’s Facebook post, during a mock account of what his media report might have read, the Pokémon GO player elaborated with the following statements.
“The suspect didn’t realize that there were four cops behind him because his music was blaring in his ears. The suspect had reached into his pockets, for something which was his phone, but for all the cops could have known, he was reaching for a gun. The suspect could very well become another statistic on this day.
“I am not one to usually rant on Facebook or anywhere else, but with all of the crazy things that have been happening in our world these past couple of weeks it is hard to stay silent. I am thankful to be alive, and I do now realize, that it very well could have been me, a friend of mine, my brother, your cousin, your nephew, etc.”
Here's how Faith Ekakitie and Jaleel Johnson celebrated today's win over Maryland. pic.twitter.com/ngaNjLZjJB— David Scrivner (@davidscrivner) October 31, 2015
“Misunderstandings happen all the time and just like that things can go south very quickly,” Ekakitie continues. “It is extremely sad that our society has brainwashed us all to the point where we can’t feel safe being approached by the police officers in our respective communities.”
“Not all police officers are out to get you, but at the same time, not all people who fit a criminal profile are criminals,” notes Faith Ekakitie.
The Pokémon GO player mentions that he wasn’t adequately paying attention to his surroundings. He encourages all Pokémon hunters — people, in general — to exercise more situational awareness.
“I would urge us all to at least to attempt to unlearn some of the prejudices that we have learned about each other and now plague our minds and our society,” Ekakitie adds.
As a lasting call to acknowledgement, Faith Ekakitie mentions that all stereotypes, prejudices, and biases can be unlearned in the same manner that they were learned.
What are your thoughts regarding this Black Pokémon GO player’s experience?
With all the miscommunications and misunderstandings between law enforcement, Black Lives Matter, and the Black community — if you have children — have you talked with them about safety precautions and boundaries?
Feel free to share your comments below.
[Photo by Amr Nabil/AP Images]