Versace shoe designer says he was racially profiled in Beverly Hills; video shows him detained, frisked and searched

National

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (NewsNation Now) — Video released by the Beverly Hills Police Department Friday shows an officer pat down, frisk and search a Versace shoe designer who says he was racially profiled as a Black man.

The footage shows an officer tell Versace’s Vice President of Sneakers and Men’s Footwear Salehe Bembury that he jaywalked across the street early Thursday evening. The luxury shoe designer admits he did and says he’s been using the GPS on his phone to get around. The officer asks him for his identification. Then the officer says he wants to search Bembury.

Bembury, who can repeatedly be heard saying he’s “nervous” and “uncomfortable,” apparently allows the search. The officer asks more than once if Bembury has any weapons on him — even after Bembury tells him he does not. He later pats down Bembury with his arms held behind his back.

Versace shoe designer Salehe Bembury is stopped and searched by Beverly Hills police on Oct. 1, 2020. This still is from body cam footage released by the Beverly Hills Police Department on Oct. 2, 2020.
Versace shoe designer Salehe Bembury is stopped and searched by Beverly Hills police on Oct. 1, 2020. This still is from body cam footage released by the Beverly Hills Police Department on Oct. 2, 2020.

Bembury posted a clip to his Instagram page Thursday showing a few seconds of the encounter, with the following caption: “BEVERLY HILLS WHILE BLACK. I’M OK, MY SPIRIT IS NOT.” In the clip, he says he’s being “searched for shopping at the store I work for and just being Black,” while holding up the black Versace shopping bag he was carrying when he was stopped.

Donatella Versace showed support for the designer in an Instagram post Friday. She said she is “appalled” by the actions of police.

“I am appalled this happened to Salehe Bembury today,” Versace wrote alongside the clip originally posted by Bembury. “He has been a consultant at Versace for a long time and the behavior he experienced is totally unacceptable. He was stopped on the street solely for the color of his skin.”

Following the designer’s comments, the Beverly Hills Police Department released body camera footage of the encounter with Bembury.

The footage starts with the officers pulling up to Bembury as he stands on a sidewalk. According to police, officers detained Bembury at the intersection of Camden Drive and Wilshire Boulevard.

The officers get out of the police car and walk toward him. Then the audio begins playing.

“We were over here and we saw you walk across the red hand over here. So we just want to make sure — what’s going? How come you did that? You didn’t want to wait for the light?” the officer asks Bembury.

“What did I do again? I’m a little…,” Bembury replies, saying something inaudible.

The officer responds “Rodeo,” gesturing toward a nearby street and apparently referring to Rodeo Drive, where Versace and dozens of other designer stores are located.

“Oh, I jaywalked, I guess,” Bembury replies.

“Right, right, right,” the officer says, explaining he and the other officer saw him walk across the street and decided to follow him in their vehicle. Then he asks: “How come you did that, man?”

“I jaywalked. I don’t know what else to say. I don’t know what to say,” Bembury responds.

“OK, well just cuz the area you did it — you see there’s a like a bus, and stuff like that,” the officer says. “Do you have any ID on you by chance, man?”

Bembury begins feeling around his pockets, apparently trying to find his ID.

“Without reaching into your pockets, you don’t have any weapons or anything, right?” the officer says while Bembury is gesturing toward his pockets.

Bembury then raises up both his hands and responds: “I don’t. I’m like super nervous because I’m just going to my car. Want to take my phone or something like that?”

“No, you can hold onto it,” the officer tells him.

“So what do you want me to do right now?” Bembury asks.

“I just wanted to see if you have any ID. But, without reaching into your pockets…” the officer replies.

“I do have an ID,” Bembury tells him.

“Awesome. Do you have any weapons or anything on you? Do you mind if I just check to make sure?” the officer says, asking him the same question again.

“You can do whatever you need to do, man. I’m just nervous. Can I put my phone down at least?” Bembury says.

“Absolutely, yeah, yeah. No worries, man. What’s your name?”

“Salehe.”

“OK, I’m Officer… (the officer’s name is not audible) Nice to meet you, bro. I’m just going to check to make sure you don’t have any weapons, if you don’t mind, OK?” the officer tells him. Then he instructs him to turn around.

“Face that way real quick. Put your hands behind your back, palms together like you’re praying,” the officer tells him. Bembury places both arms behind his back.

“Awesome, thank you,” the officer says. “All the way — like you’re praying. Spread your feet.”

“Cool, man,” the officer tells Bembury as he begins running his hands over parts of his body.

“Don’t want to mess up those shoes, those are pretty nice,” the officer says as his hand appears to run downward toward Bembury’s groin area.

“You said I can search you, right?” the officer says.

“You do whatever,” Bembury replies before muttering: “This is embarrassing, to be frank.”

“Well, what we like to do, like when we stop someone, is just to make sure you don’t have any weapons or anything,” the officer tells him, now feeling down the knee area of Bembury’s pants.

“The pat-down feels a little excessive,” the footwear designer tells the officer.

The officer continues to reach into one of Bembury’s pockets.

“What’s unfortunate is I literally designed the shoes that are in this bag, and I’m being f—ing, like, searched for it,” Bembury says.

“Really? You did?” another officer in the background asks.

“Yeah, I do…” Bembury responds before the officer doing the questioning quickly cuts him off.

“That’s why I’m not…that’s why, like I said, man, you’re not in handcuffs or anything,” the officer says. “I’m just talking to you right now, OK?”

“I’m just walking down the street, and it’s a little ridiculous,” Bembury tells him.

“Well, look, I told you though why, right?” the officer replies, gesturing toward the street where the alleged jaywalking occurred.

“I understand but the pat-down feels excessive. So what else can I do for you?” Bembury says.

“No, no just relax man,” the officer replies.

“Can I turn around?” Bembury asks.

“Absolutely, yeah, yeah. It was just to make sure you don’t have any weapons,” the officer tells him.

Then, Bembury asks the officer if he can pick up his phone, which was placed on the ground earlier.

“Leave it down for now,” the officer says. Then the officer asks if he can take Bembury’s ID out of his wallet — apparently reviewing the designer’s ID for the first time since detaining him.

“You mind if I pull it out? How do you say your first name, sir?”

“Salehe,” Bembury responds.

The first officer asks the other officer there to run Bembury’s ID and tells him to “make sure everything checks out OK.”

“Can I take my phone please now? It’s like clearly a phone. Is that at least OK?” Bembury says.

“No, so. Yeah, yeah, sorry,” the officer replies. “If that makes you feel more comfortable, absolutely. Take a look at it.”

“I have to record this because I just don’t feel comfortable,” Bembury tells him.

“Well, just because, right now, you are being detained, just because we’re talking to you, um, we don’t know — not saying you would do this — people have called and they have friends come. And then it becomes an officer safety issue,” the officer says.

“I’m literally just going to record right now — that’s all I’m doing. You see this recording?,” Bembury says, showing the officer his phone screen. “And that’s all I’m doing because I feel — you hear it in my voice? I’m uncomfortable. I’m nervous. You understand the climate that we’re in?”

“No, I understand. Is there anything I can do to make you feel more comfortable?” the officer asks.

“Not really dude, not really. Like your boys are pulling up. I’m uncomfortable. I’m not making any like fast movements but this is uncomfortable for me.”

“Are we?” another officer asks.

“No, but this is uncomfortable for me. I just want to get to my car so I’m just going to hit record for you,” he tells the officer.

“Yeah, yeah. Whatever you wanna do, sir. But like I said, you understand why we stopped you, correct? And you admitted to jaywalking?” the officer says.

While recording on his phone, Bembury says while facing the screen: “I’m getting f—ing searched for shopping at the store I work for,” he says while raising a shopping bag, “and just being black.”

“See, now what you’re doing is making it completely different to what we just talked about. You’re making a completely different narrative,” the officer says.

“So you checked my ID. What’s going on? Do I have anything on my record?” Bembury asks while another officer hands the ID to the officer still questioning Bembury.

The other officer tells him “You’re good to go.” Both officers agree Bembury is free to go, and he turns off the recording on his phone.

But then, the officer doing the questioning continues speaking.

“Yeah, man. But listen, so you can’t jaywalk, correct?”

“Understood. Yeah, yeah,” Bembury responds. “Can I have my stuff back, please?”

The officer hands him something and then tells him: “But see how you just switched that complete narrative?”

Bembury shakes his head and replies: “Nah, nah, nah. I know how you guys saw it. Am I good to go?” he asks again, now turning toward the other officer. They both assure him he can leave.

“Alright, you guys have a good day,” Bembury tells them as he walks away.

“Next time, don’t change the narrative like that, though,” the officer says just as the video ends.

NewsNation affiliate KTLA contributed to this report.

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