A Boston police officer who sent a mass e-mail referring to Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. as a "banana-eating jungle monkey" has apologized, saying he’s not a racist.
Officer Justin Barrett told a Boston television station on Wednesday night that he was sorry for the e-mail. “I regret that I used such words,” Barrett told CNN affiliate WCVB-TV. “I have so many friends of every type of culture and race you can name. I am not a racist.” Barrett was placed on administrative leave after the e-mail surfaced, and he might lose his job as a result. Barrett, 36, who is also an active member of the National Guard, sent off a fiery e-mail to some fellow Guard members — as well as The Boston Globe — in which he vented about a July 22 Globe column about Gates’ controversial arrest. Watch Barrett apologize » Gates, a top African-American scholar, was arrested on July 16 and accused of disorderly conduct after police responded to a report of a possible burglary at his Cambridge home. The charge later was dropped. The incident sparked a debate about racial profiling and police procedures. Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham supported Gates’ actions, asking readers, “Would you stand for this kind of treatment, in your own home, by a police officer who by now clearly has no right to be there”
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In Barrett’s e-mail, which was posted on a Boston television station’s Web site, he declared that if he had “been the officer he verbally assaulted like a banana-eating jungle monkey, I would have sprayed him in the face with OC (oleoresin capsicum, or pepper spray) deserving of his belligerent non-compliance.” Barrett used the “jungle monkey” phrase four times, three times referring to Gates and once referring to Abraham’s writing as “jungle monkey gibberish.” He also declared that he was “not a racist but I am prejudice [sic] towards people who are stupid and pretend to stand up and preach for something they say is freedom but it is merely attention because you do not get enough of it in your little fear-dwelling circle of on-the-bandwagon followers.” Barrett’s comments were taken out of context, said his attorney, Peter Marano.
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“Officer Barrett did not call professor Gates a jungle monkey or malign him racially,” Marano said. “He said his behavior was like that of one. It was a characterization of the actions of that man.” According to a statement from Boston police, Commissioner Edward Davis took action immediately on learning of Barrett’s remarks, stripping the officer of his gun and badge. Watch police say Barrett will be held accountable » Barrett is “on administrative leave, pending the outcome of a termination hearing.”
CNN has been unable to reach Barrett for comment. Davis wants Barrett, a two-year member of the Boston police, fired, a source close to the investigation said. But he will continue to be paid while on leave, and no date has been set for his termination hearing.