Caller in Gates Case Says She Didn’t Mention Race
By KATIE ZEZIMA
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. : Lucia Whalen, whose 911 call led to the arrest of the Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. at his home, made her first public comments Wednesday, saying at no time did she ever mention race to the responding police officer.
Ms. Whalen’s statements contradict the police report filed by Sgt. James Crowley, who said Ms. Whalen told him outside Mr. Gates’s home that she had seen”what appeared to be two black males with backpacks”on the porch of the yellow single-family house.
Ms. Whalen said that the only words she exchanged with Sergeant Crowley in person were,”I was the 911 caller.”She said that he responded,”Stay right there.”
Ms. Whalen, 40, her voice cracking, said she was deeply hurt by the reaction to the incident on July 16. She said she and her family had been the target of threats, which led her to speak out.
â€œWhen I was called a racist, I was the target of scorn and ridicule because of things I never said,”she told the reporters gathered in a park here at midday. She added,”The criticism hurt me as a person but also hurt the community of Cambridge.”
On Monday, the Cambridge police released the tape of Ms. Whalen’s 911 call in which she told the dispatcher she had”no idea”if two men : who turned out to be Professor Gates and his driver : were breaking into the house, repeatedly mentioning that they might live there. She said that the two men pushed a door in with their shoulders, and that she was unsure”if they live there and just had a hard time with their key.”
Ms. Whalen did not mention the men’s race until a dispatcher asked her if they were black, white or Hispanic.
â€œThere were two larger men,”she said in the audio released Monday.”One looked kind of Hispanic, but I’m not really sure,”she said, adding that she did not see what the second man”looked like at all.”
Ms. Whalen also told the dispatcher that she called 911 on behalf of an elderly neighbor who saw the men trying to get into the house.
On Wednesday, she said she hoped that with the tapes out,”people can see that I tried to be careful,”adding that she never thought that her words”would be analyzed by an entire nation.”
She said that she had been the target of threats but that, after reflection, she would make the same call again.
â€œI respect the Cambridge police as well as Professor Gates and I hope my decision to speak out does not add any controversy to what has been a difficult situation,”she said.
The Cambridge police have stood by their report and could not be immediately reached for comment.
The disorderly conduct charge against Professor Gates was dropped, and he and Sergeant Crowley plan to meet with President Obama for a beer at the White House on Thursday.
Ms. Whalen, who works at Harvard Magazine, said she was not asked to join the men at the meeting. Her lawyer, Wendy Murphy, who accompanied her to the news conference, said her client should go if asked.
â€œThe three highly trained guys who acted badly are getting together for a beer tomorrow at the White House, and that’s a good thing,”Ms. Murphy said.”The one person whose actions were exemplary will be at work tomorrow here in Cambridge.”
Of course, if she isn’t there at the White House beer bash it will be that much easier for the men to blame the whole episode on her I guess.
ETA: NYT account here. I’m not sure Whalen’s actions were “exemplary” but it seems to me she should be included in the conversation about the incident.