A black man was out for a jog in his Boston neighborhood when a group of ICE agents pulled up to him in two unmarked SUVs, demanded an ID and asked what he was doing in the area – all without identifying themselves, according to reports.
Ben Apreala, a 29-year-old real estate agent, was jogging on the VFW Parkway in West Roxbury on Tuesday when the agents, all of whom were white, jumped out of the vehicles and began questioning him, WBUR reported.
“These guys just hopped out in full camouflage uniforms with masks over their face, and stopped me, and told me to immediately identify (myself),” Apreala, who recorded the encounter, told the station.
“Do you have any tattoos on your left or right arm? So we can confirm and we’ll be out of here,” one of the agents is heard asking.
“Am I free to go? Do I have to show you? If I’m free to go, then I’m not showing you anything,” Apreala responds. “Thank you. Have a great day, guys.”
Apreala said he was “was confused as to whether or not they were even legitimate authority,” adding that the men never identified themselves, but he saw “ICE” — Immigration and Customs Enforcement — on at least one of their badges.
He said the federal agents asked him to show an ID because he matched the description of a person involved in an ongoing investigation, but did not provide any details.
“When I saw the badge and asked them if they were ICE officers, and they said yes, and I explained that I wasn’t an immigrant, I’m born and raised in Boston and that I have no idea what they’re stopping me for,” Apreala told WBUR.
“They said that immigration isn’t the only thing that they investigate and proceeded to question me,” he added.
“I said, ‘What am I being detained for?’” Apreala told NBC Boston. “He said, ‘Because you fit the description of someone we’re investigating.’”
A spokesperson for the Enforcement and Removal Operations, a division of ICE, told NBC News that its officers “were conducting surveillance as part of a targeted enforcement action.”
The rep said they were “looking for a previously deported Haitian national with multiple criminal convictions and pending cocaine and fentanyl trafficking charges that may have been residing in the area.”
The agency added that Apreala matched the subject’s description and that the agents identified themselves as “Police/ICE.”
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh assailed ICE’s actions and said he asked the city’s police department to find out more information about the incident.
“Let me be clear: racial profiling and stops like these are wrong, unjustified, and will not be tolerated,” Walsh said on Twitter.
“For him and others who might have lived through an experience like this, I’m demanding that ICE stop this cruel practice of inciting fear in the lives of our residents, particularly our Black and Brown residents, and undocumented immigrants,” he added.
City Council member Matt O’Malley, who represents the area, described the feds’ action as “unlawful.”
“This unlawful stop was outrageous & unacceptable,” O’Malley said on Twitter. “Racial profiling should not happen here or anywhere else. I am working to follow up w/the victim & will address this issue immediately w/ federal reps.”
The ACLU of Massachusetts has announced that it was representing Apreala and that it was investigating.
“This incident raises serious constitutional questions and is disturbing on a human level,” said Rahsaan Hall, head of the Racial Justice Program at the ACLU of Massachusetts.
As Apreala’s mother watched his video, she said she wasn’t sure until she called him if he had been arrested.
“I have too many videos running in my head about young black males with law enforcement,” Patricia Apreala told NBC Boston. “And it was not a pretty sight, I can tell you.”
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