Ex-'SNL' cast member Jay Pharoah says a Los Angeles police officer put knee to his neck

Los Angeles police said Pharoah was detained as a possible crime suspect and released after officers realized the mistake. The incident is under investigation, the LAPD said.
Image: Jay Pharoah
Jay Pharoah attends the SNL 40th Anniversary Special at Rockefeller Plaza, in New York on Feb. 15, 2015.Andy Kropa / Invision via AP file

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By Phil McCausland

Comedian and former "Saturday Night Live" cast member Jay Pharoah said he was stopped and handcuffed by Los Angeles police in February, with one officer's kneeling on the actor's neck in a similar fashion to what occurred in the deadly arrest of George Floyd in Minneapolis last month.

Pharoah posted to Instagram on Friday a video that includes security footage which he says captures the incident. It appears to show four officers approaching him with guns drawn while he was exercising.

The actor narrates, "They tell me to get on the ground, spread my arms out," Pharoah said. "They put me in cuffs, the officer took his knee, put it on my neck. It wasn’t as long as George Floyd, but I know how that feels."

NBC News has not independently verified the security camera footage and does not know what may have occurred prior to the events shown in the footage.

The Los Angeles Police Department said Saturday, "We are aware of this incident and it’s under investigation with our Professional Standards Bureau, Internal Affairs Division."

Los Angeles police spokesperson Drake Madison told USA TODAY that the department is also looking the footage provided in Pharoah's video. He added that LAPD has provided Pharoah with a document to file a misconduct complaint.

The incident, Pharoah said, occurred about a week before Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man, was fatally shot by a white man on a street in Brunswick, Georgia, on Feb. 23.

Pharoah said the officers apologized after another call came in, telling him that he "fit the description of a black man in this area with gray sweatpants on and a gray shirt."

The comedian told them that they could Google his name to discover that they had "made a big mistake," but they did not release him until they got a call from another officer.

Pharoah was best known during his six-season tenure on "SNL" for his many impressions, including that of President Barack Obama.

The comedian said in the Instagram video that he had never been put in handcuffs before this and that his parents had tried to largely shield him and his sister from the impacts of racism.

After this experience, he said he was imploring people of color to educate themselves as much as they could about the law and the legal obligations of police officers.

"Black lives always matter. My life matters. I’m still here to tell my story," Pharoah said.

"I literally could’ve been George Floyd," he said. "We as a country can’t breathe anymore, and we are tired. We are sick and we are tired of it — I can’t breathe!"