Faith Ekakitie, a rising senior defensive lineman at Iowa, was minding his own business—he had taken a walk to a park to play some Pokémon Go, as one does. That’s when he was confronted by Iowa City police with guns drawn.
Ekakitie laid out the encounter in a Facebook post on Wednesday evening, about four hours after it happened. He called it “the first time that I’ve ever truly feared for my life,” but he doesn’t blame the cops. Here’s all he knew at the time:
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.
Ekakitie would later learn that a bank had been robbed less than a block away, and an Iowa City police sergeant told the Des Moines Register that they had gotten the call just two minutes before coming across Ekakitie in the park. Ekakitie wrote that, given what he now knows, he can understand why the cops acted the way they did.
From the police officers point of view, all they knew was that a bank had just been robbed less than ten minutes ago. The suspect was a large black male, wearing all black, with something on top of his head and the suspect is armed. As they drive past an Iowa City park that was less than 3 minutes away from the bank that was just robbed, they notice a large black man, dressed in all black, with black goggles on his head. They quickly move to action and identify themselves as the Iowa City police and ask me to turn around and place my hands up. I do not comply, they ask again, and again no response from me. So they all draw their guns and begin to slowly approach the suspect.
In this situation, what the media would fail to let people know is that the suspect had his headphones in the entire time the Police Officers approached him initially. The suspect had actually just pulled up to the park because he was playing a newly popular Game called Pokémon Go. 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.
Ekakitie thanked the Iowa City PD for their professionalism, and urged people to be more aware of their surroundings, be that having their heads buried in their phones or earbuds lodged in their ears. He also urged people on both sides of citizen-police encounters not to assume the worst:
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.
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. I am convinced that in the same way that we learned these prejudices, we can also unlearn them.