Bena Apreala was jogging in the West Roxbury neighborhood of Boston on Tuesday afternoon (October 6) when he was reportedly approached by at least three men in facemasks and bulletproof vests.
The 29-year-old, Black man says he noticed one of the men wearing an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) badge and questioned why he had been stopped since Apreala is a United States citizen.
“Without identifying himself, [an officer] started asking me for identification, asking me where I was from, asking me who I was; what my business was around the area,” Apreala told local station WYCN.
“These guys just hopped out in full camouflage uniforms with masks over their face, and stopped me, and told me to immediately identify [myself]. I was confused as to whether or not they were even legitimate authority,” he told WBUR. “They said that immigration isn’t the only thing that they investigate and proceeded to question me.”
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Apreala said the men were White and would not identify themselves. When he noticed the ICE badge, Apreala told them he was born and raised in Boston. An officer told Apreala he matched the description of a man they had been investigating and asked him to provide identification. Apreala, however, didn’t bring any on his run.
It was only after Apreala pulled out his phone and started recording the interaction that the men allowed him to continue on his run.
After receiving attention on social media, Boston’s Mayor Marty Walsh along with city, state and federal lawmakers, demanded an investigation into why Apreala was stopped.
“Let me be clear: racial profiling and stops like these are wrong, unjustified, and will not be tolerated,” Walsh said via Twitter Wednesday.
“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.”
Apreala’s case is just the latest in a series of “jogging while Black” incidents that have garnered national attention. Ahmaud Arbery was killed while jogging through a neighborhood, attacked by two white men who shot him to death.
In late August and early September, joggers Mathias Ometu of San Antonio and Joseph Griffin of Deltona, Florida, are just two additional examples of Black men who were each stopped by officers and handcuffed because police said the men matched the description of a suspect.