When a woman in Vista, California heard there had been a burglary in her quiet residential neighborhood, she had a pretty good idea about who might have involved.
Police put out a description of three men they were looking for, and it only confirmed her suspicions. One suspect, in particular, was said to be between six-foot and six-foot-five-inches tall, mid-20s to mid-30s in age, and 260 pounds.
Oh, and African American. The police also described this particular person of interest as African American.
The woman – who is not African American, as you probably guessed, as whose identity is being protected by police – spotted a man she felt fit this description on the same day as the burglary. She even took a picture of him at the time – hours before the break-in would even take place, and days before she learned of the descriptions of the suspects!
The perpetrator she had pre-identified was Ike Iloputaife, who was out walking his dog like he does almost every day when this woman spotted him.
Now, Iloputaife is only 5’9″ in height, weights 195 pounds, and is 55-year-old. But guess what color his skin is?
“In this person’s head I became a person of interest because of my skin color,” Iloputaife told the San Diego Tribune. “Asking to call the police on a black person in this highly charged political and cultural environment can be a danger for the black person.”
Iloputaife, a Nigerian-born innkeeper, learned he was a ‘person of interest’ a week after the burglary when neighbors told him his photo was included in the sheriff’s bulletin that appeared on local TV news and on the internet.
The San Diego County Sheriff’s office has since removed Iloputaife’s photo from their bulletin, but they don’t seem at all remorseful about the mistake.
“With a crime where we have no leads other than surveillance footage, we’re going to look at all information that comes in as a potential lead,” Lt. Jack Reynolds told the Tribune.
Iloputaife’s husband, Jim Watson, sees this sad commentary on race relations a little bit differently.
“They took this extreme action on such little information,” Watson told The Tribune. “I believe in neighborhood watch and communities looking out for themselves. But they need to think seriously about what it’s like to call the police and make someone a suspect with so little information.”
The only difference between whoever this woman is and the woman who tried to have a Black man arrested for legally barbecuing in a park in Oakland, is that there was no one around to publicly shame her. We’re hoping this goes some small way toward rectifying that unfortunate oversight.