As a result of a false report, Berkeley Drop-In Center director Jorge Colon was detained at gunpoint by Berkeley police early February while putting up decorations for Black History Month.
Colon had allegedly been decorating the outside of the center and stepped back into the street to take a photo when he saw two figures approach him, guns drawn, he said. Colon alleged that these two figures ordered him to the ground and handcuffed him without announcing they were police officers.
“I know the history of having cellphones or objects in your hands doesn’t turn out well when it comes to police officers,” Colon said. “And me being a Black man, and them being white officers, I was scared for my life. I was scared that with any wrong movement, I was going to be shot.”
According to Berkeley Police Department spokesperson Officer Byron White, officers were called to the scene by a woman who claimed a 37-year-old Black man with a different first name was inside the Drop-In Center with a revolver in his left-front pant pocket. The woman who called claimed the man had punched someone and retreated to the outside of the center, White added.
Due to the battery report and the possible use of firearms, two officers and a sergeant arrived at the scene, White added. Colon, standing outside, allegedly matched the description, and the officers approached him with guns drawn. They ordered Colon to lay face down in the street, where they kept him for two minutes.
“We understand that incidents with officers arriving with guns drawn are disturbing. Officers spent time explaining to the man and the Drop-In Center’s staff what had happened. This would be a very difficult event for anyone to experience,” White said in an email. “We have not yet been able to identify the caller who made the false report.”
Throughout the interaction, Colon allegedly made it clear that he was an employee of the Drop-In Center, which serves community members experiencing mental health crises.
Through his workplace, Colon has received counseling, but returning to the place of work where he was held at gunpoint has proven to be continuously traumatic, he said.
“Seeing myself get murdered by the cops, that moment replays in my head,” Colon said. “Your mind puts it together and plays it over and over like it actually happened. It disturbs my whole way of thinking, my way of life.”