Wyclef Jean Says He Was Mistaken For Robbery Suspect

Grammy-winning musician Wyclef Jean said he was handcuffed and “treated like a criminal” when Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies mistook him for a violent armed robber early Tuesday.

The former Fugees star posted a video on Twitter showing himself in handcuffs leaned over a patrol car in West Hollywood, decrying the way he was being treated. Hours after the incident, Los Angeles sheriff’s officials apologized for inconveniencing Jean but said he was lawfully stopped by deputies looking for a violent criminal whose victims described a similar vehicle and article of clothing.

“I was asked by the police to put my hands up. Then I was told, ‘Do not move.’ I was instantly hand cuffed before being asked to identify myself and before being told why,” Jean told The Associated Press. “In the process I said my name and told them they have wrong person. They proceeded to ignore me and I was treated like a criminal.”

Greg Allen / GregAllenPhotos.com
– Wyclef Jean
OZY Fusion Fest, Rumsey Playfield / Central Park, New York City

In a statement Tuesday afternoon, sheriff’s officials said Jean was riding in a car that matched the description of the vehicle used in an armed robbery that occurred a few minutes before Jean was stopped.

The two robbery victims told sheriff’s deputies that they were sitting in a parking lot when a man walked up to them, pistol whipped them, pressed the gun against the head of one of the victims and demanded they give him everything they had.

Deputies who were patrolling nearby spotted a car that was nearly identical to the description of the assailant’s vehicle and followed the car until it pulled over in West Hollywood, the statement said.

The suspect was in “either a gold or tan Toyota or Honda, older model sedan” and Jean was in a 2002 tan Toyota, the statement said. The driver and Jean exited the vehicle as the deputies approached.

Both Jean and the suspect reportedly had on dark shirts and a similar colored bandanna, authorities said. The sheriff’s department said deputies then detained Jean, “who they believed to the suspect in the violent crime,” handcuffed him and placed him in the back of a patrol car.

Sheriff’s officials said Jean was repeatedly ordered not to place his hands near his pockets or waistband and not to go near the trunk of the car. Jean was patted down for weapons and put in the back of a deputy sheriff’s patrol car “out of an abundance of caution,” the statement said.

Officials said deputies learned within six minutes that Jean and the female driver of the car were not suspects in the crime and released them. Two suspects were later arrested on suspicion of committing the robbery, officials said.

“It is unfortunate that Mr. Jean was detained for six minutes during this investigation, as he had no involvement whatsoever in this violent crime,” the statement said. “The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is apologetic for any inconvenience this process caused Mr. Jean. We are grateful we were able to apprehend the robbery suspects and that no one was seriously injured.”