SAN FRANCISCO — Faith Ekakitie, a defensive end for the University of Iowa, says "the first time I've truly feared for my life," came while playing the popular smartphone game Pokémon Go in an Iowa City park.
A bank a short distance away had been robbed and the suspect was identified as a large black male, wearing all black with something on his head, according to Ekakitie's Facebook post that described the incident, which comes amid heightened scrutiny of police shootings of African-American men.
Iowa City police noticed the 23-year-old Ekakitie fit the armed suspect's description. Ekakitie, who had headphones on, did not hear the approach of the police officers who drew their guns. The 6-foot-3, 290-pounder detailed the incident from his perspective and from what he thought must have been the perspective of police, writing he was "happy to be alive."
Sgt. Jorey Bailey told The Des Moines Register: "I don’t think race played a factor in this, nor does it in circumstances like this because of the detailed description, the location given by the person and the short time span in which this all occurred."
Some African Americans, especially African-American men, are taking precautions to avoid arousing suspicion with potentially lethal consequences. There is even a Tumblr post with tips on how to play safely: Walk a dog (on a cloth leash, not a chain), wear glasses, avoid white neighborhoods or bring a non-black friend.
Ekakitie urged people to "be more aware of their surroundings."
"Because clearly I wasn’t," he wrote on Facebook.
He also asked people to "unlearn some of the prejudiced that we have learned about each other."