A film producer who was in Beverly Hills to attend a pre-Emmy party Friday night was handcuffed and detained for about six hours before authorities investigating a nearby bank robbery realized they had the wrong man.
Charles Belk stated on Facebook that he left a restaurant on Wilshire Boulevard and was walking alone to his car parked on La Cienega Boulevard at about 5:20 p.m. to check the parking meter when he was suddenly surrounded by police and told to sit on the curb.
A picture posted with the statement on Facebook showed Belk, who is credited as a producer and actor on his IMDb page, in handcuffs as he sat on the sidewalk with two officers nearby.
“I get that the Beverly Hills Police Department didn’t know that I was a well educated American citizen that had received a B.S. in electrical engineering from the University of Southern California, an MBA from Indiana University … and an executive leadership certificate from Harvard Business School,” Belk’s statement read. “Hey, I was ‘tall,’ ‘bald,’ a ‘male’ and ‘black,’ so I fit the description.”
Belk’s Facebook comments, posted Saturday on his personal page, were shared nearly 30,000 times by Tuesday.
Police were investigating an armed bank robbery that had just occurred and arrested Belk because he “matched the physical characteristics of the second suspect and was in the area of the bank shortly after the robbery,” the Beverly Hills Police Department stated in a news release on Monday.
A witness then positively identified Belk as the second suspect, according to the news release.
Belk wrote that he was not initially told why he was being detained.
“Within an hour, I was transported to the Beverly Hills Police Headquarters, photographed, fingerprinted and put under a $100,000 bail and accused of armed bank robbery and accessory to robbery of a Citibank,” Belk said in the statement.
Belk also said he was not allowed to make a phone call and was denied the opportunity to speak to his lawyer for a lengthy time.
Belk was in custody for about six hours while investigators reviewed evidence from the robbery, the Police Department stated.
During that time, other witnesses were interviewed and surveillance tape was analyzed. Finally, it was determined that Belk was not the second suspect, according to the news release.
“What I don’t get … is why, during the 45 minutes that they had me on the curb, handcuffed in the sun, before they locked me up and took away my civil rights, that they could not simply review the ATM and bank’s HD video footage to clearly see that the ‘tall, bald-headed, black male’ … did not fit MY description,” Belk’s statement read.
Belk’s arrest comes amid a string of controversial incidents between police and African-American men, including the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
Police in Beverly Hills said Belk’s detention was regrettable but was a necessary part of their investigation.
“The Beverly Hills Police Department regrets the inconvenience to Mr. Belk, but was under obligation to thoroughly verify that he was not the suspect before releasing him,” the police statement read.
Police did arrest one other person in Friday’s incident, identified as Brianna Kloutse, 47, who is suspected in 11 recent bank robberies in the Los Angeles area, according to police. The second robber — who Belk was mistaken for — remains at large, the Police Department stated.