Spanish police yesterday (Jan. 31) said they exchanged blows with Rodney Mack, the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra's lead trumpet player, who they mistakenly thought was a con man. Police said they thoug
Spanish police yesterday (Jan. 31) said they exchanged blows with Rodney Mack, the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra's lead trumpet player, who they mistakenly thought was a con man. Police said they thought Mack, who is a cousin of celebrated jazz musician Wynton Marsalis, fit the description of a suspect they were looking for because of his height and his race. The 34-year-old Mack is black.
Mack told the New York Times he was so badly beaten in the incident two weeks ago that he was prevented him from participating in the orchestra's world tour, which visits New York's Carnegie Hall tonight. He said he received blows to the legs, buttocks and back, and was quoted as saying he also received a mouth injury. He plans to sue police for assault and wrongful arrest.
A police official who spoke on condition of anonymity told the Times that the officers thought Mack fit the "characteristics" of a man involved in credit card fraud -- particularly his race and height.
A Spanish anti-racism organization, SOS Racismo, said it is not uncommon for Spanish police to rough up people of color during spot identity checks. "They think that these people don't have the same rights as white Spaniards," said group spokesperson Elisa Gutierrez. Gutierrez said the organization had offered Mack its support, but he had not responded.
Barcelona police spokesperson Vanesa Garcia said the officers confused Mack with the con man. Mack had rented a Mercedes from the same rental car agency as the wanted man. "Logically, the police thought Mack was the criminal," Garcia said.
Garcia said the officers involved belonged to a special white-collar crime unit, are older and not used to violence. "One policeman has a broken rib and won't be able to work for 21 days. The others were all slightly injured as well," she said.
Mack told the Times he thought he was being mugged and had shouted, "Take my wallet! Take my wallet!" in Spanish and English during the attack Jan. 15. He said the plainclothes police officers did not identify themselves or speak as they approached him that night.
The official who spoke to the Times said one officer did identify himself but that Mack had knocked away his badge. Mack was initially detained for resisting and disobeying authority but released when police realized it was a case of mistaken identity.
The U.S. Consulate in Spain expressed concern about Mack's treatment to the Interior Ministry, but did not intend to take further action, a spokesperson said. Mack could not be reached yesterday by phone at his home in Barcelona.
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