From combined dispatches
BOSTON | A 911 tape released Monday over an incident involving a black Harvard professor arrested at his home by a white police officer shows that the caller did not dwell on race or confirm that a burglary was in progress.
The 911 tape appeared to counter the widely reported speculation that the caller, Lucia Whalen, injected race into the equation by telling police that two black men were breaking into the house, and the reports that police said they were responding to a call about two blacks breaking into a house.
The police in Cambridge, Mass., released the recording of Ms. Whalen on the incident - in which prominent professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. broke into his home with his driver July 16 because he misplaced his keys - and the police reaction during the call.
Mr. Gates, an internationally known and respected black studies specialist at Harvard University, was arrested on suspicion of disorderly conduct after presenting proof to police that he lived at the house. He has protested that he was the victim of racism.
“I don’t know what’s happening,” the woman told police in the 911 call.
“I don’t know if they live there, and they just had a hard time with their key, but I did notice they had to use a shoulder to try to barge in, and they got in,” she said, adding that she saw the men had two suitcases.
Police are then heard asking her: “White, black or Hispanic?”
“They were two larger men, one looks kind of Hispanic, but I am not really sure, and the other one entered, and I didn’t see what he looks like,” the caller responded.
The operator at a headquarters facility is heard telling a police patrol that the suspects were of “unknown race, one may be Hispanic, we are not sure.”
Mr. Gates, who was held for four hours and released with all charges dropped, and his supporters called his arrest by Cambridge police Sgt. James Crowley an outrageous act of racial profiling. Sgt. Crowley’s supporters say Mr. Gates was arrested because he was belligerent and that race was not a factor.
Interest in the case intensified when President Obama said at a White House news conference last week that Cambridge police “acted stupidly” in arresting Mr. Gates. He later tried to quell the uproar about his comments by inviting Mr. Gates and Sgt. Crowley to the White House for a beer - a meeting that could happen this week, according to the White House.
Both have accepted the invitation, the White House said.
In Sgt. Crowley’s report, he said he spoke to Ms. Whalen at the scene and she reported seeing two black men on the porch.
Ms. Whalen’s attorney, Wendy Murphy, said her client did not mention the men’s race to Sgt. Crowley and is upset by news reports she thinks have unfairly depicted her as a racist.
“She doesn’t live in the area. She is by no means the entitled white neighbor. … That has been the theme in the blogs and the implication in some of the mainstream news media,” Ms. Murphy said in a phone interview Monday.
In the radio transmissions, Sgt. Crowley tells a dispatcher he is at the home where the possible break-in was reported.
“I’m up with a gentleman, says he resides here, but was uncooperative, but keep the cars coming,” Sgt. Crowley said.
Police say the professor became abusive, refused to provide evidence that he was in his own home and was arrested after becoming disorderly.