“Django Unchained” actress Daniele Watts wasn’t off base when she said African-Americans are frequently profiled by police officers, according to a college professor specializing in race relations in America. But Watts’ insistence that she did “nothing wrong” is being called into question.
“She has tapped into a general complaint and a complaint that has legitimacy,” Dr. David Horne, acting chair of the Department of Africana Studies at California State University Northridge, told TheWrap on Wednesday.
But Horne added if Watts’ insistence that she was not having sex on a public street turns out to be untrue, “Her own credibility is now going to be in the toilet.”
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The actress claimed in a Facebook post written on Sept. 11 that she was “handcuffed and detained by two police officers … after refusing to agree that I had done something wrong by showing affection, fully clothed, in a public place.”
The Los Angeles police officers were dispatched to the scene after someone called 911 last week reporting two people were engaging in “lewd acts” in a parked car near CBS Studios in the Studio City neighborhood of L.A.
In an audio recording made by LAPD Sgt. Jim Parker, who responded to the call, Watts’ boyfriend Brian James Lucas can be heard cooperating when an officer asks to see his identification. But Watts refuses to provide her ID and is later placed in handcuffs.
“There’s no lewd acts happening … we’re not doing anything,” Watts insists in the 24-minute recording obtained by the Los Angeles Times. “Do you know how many times the cops have been called just because I’m black and he’s white?” Watts says. “I’m just being really honest, sir.”
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“Who brought up the race card?” Parker asks. “I’m bringing it up,” Watts responds.
“I said nothing about you being black and I have every right to ask for your ID,” Parker goes on to say.
“I have every right to say no and if you’d like to demand it, you can take me down to the court office and I can make a scene about it. You know what, I have a publicist and I work as an actress at a studio.” Parker then calls for a female officer to assist with the situation.
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While Watts and Lucas have insisted in interviews that they were simply “making out,” photos that surfaced Wednesday appear to show them doing more. The images posted by TMZ show Watts straddling Lucas in a silver Mercedes. The two are seen in the passenger seat of the car as Lucas’ legs hang out of an open car door onto the sidewalk.
While the two are clothed, witnesses told TMZ that Watts was “grinding” on Lucas’ lap, and had her breasts exposed.
After the pictures emerged, the two were vilified on social media. Actor-comedian DL Hughley tweeted, “Danielle Watts if you will literally show your ass in public, u shouldn’t have a problem showing ur ID!”
Danielle Watts if you will literally show your ass in public, u shouldn’t have a problem showing ur ID! #TeamDl
— DL Hughley (@RealDLHughley) September 18, 2014
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Entertainment writer Valentina I. Valentini was equally critical, tweeting, “Girl, listening to this audio you do NOT make a good case for yourself. Race card AND fame card?? oof.”
Watts responded to the criticism Wednesday evening on Facebook by writing, “Have you considered that the Officer was attempting to violate my constitutional rights? Do you think that we should go back to the the days when black people were required to show their ‘free papers’ everywhere they went??'”
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Los Angeles police chief Charlie Beck said Tuesday evening in a news conference that an investigation has been launched into the couple’s claims, although he believes the officers acted appropriately.
“I have reviewed the audio recordings. I have looked at the photographs … we have done interviews with witnesses, and on the initial review, it appears the officers did exactly what the people of Los Angeles would expect,” Beck said. “They responded to a report of a crime and upon their arrival, they investigated that crime and took proper actions.”
Watts and Lucas declined TheWrap’s request for comment.
Listen to the LAPD recording below.