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Officer who sent 'jungle-monkey' e-mail: 'I am not a racist'

  • Story Highlights
  • Justin Barrett apologizes for e-mail about Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr.
  • Barrett uses phrase "jungle monkey" four times in the mass e-mail
  • Barrett: "I did not intend any racial bigotry, harm or prejudice in my words."
  • Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis denounces the e-mail
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BOSTON, Massachusetts (CNN) -- The Boston police officer who sent a mass e-mail in which he compared Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. to a "banana-eating jungle monkey" has apologized, saying he's not a racist.

Scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. had a confrontation with a Cambridge, Massachusetts, police sergeant.

Boston Police Officer Justin Barrett has apologized for the e-mail he sent about Harvard professor.

Officer Justin Barrett, 36, told a Boston television station Wednesday night that he was sorry about the e-mail, a copy of which he also sent to The Boston Globe. He repeated his apology Thursday night on CNN's "Larry King Live."

"I would like to take this opportunity to offer fellow police officers, soldiers and citizens my sincerest apology over the controversial e-mail I authored," Barrett said on CNN. "I am not a racist. I did not intend any racial bigotry, harm or prejudice in my words. I sincerely apologize that these words have been received as such. I truly apologize to all."

Barrett was suspended from his military duties as captain in the Army National Guard and placed on administrative leave from the Boston Police Department pending the outcome of a termination hearing. Video Watch Barrett apologize »

Barrett said he was moved to write the note because he felt The Boston Globe column about the Gates incident to which he was responding "seemed like it was biased.

"It did not show the roles and duties of a police officer and how dangerous it already is without having a debate about people getting in a police officer's face, which should never happen at all."

Asked what led him to choose to use such language, he said, "I don't know. I couldn't tell you. I have no idea."

He added, in response to a question, that he had never used such language before.

In a news conference Thursday morning, Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis denounced the e-mail.

"We have a relationship to maintain with the community," he said. "Police officers certainly have First Amendment rights, but they can't cross the line. I believe this crosses the line." Video Watch Davis say Barrett will be held accountable »

Davis also said he spoke Wednesday with Gates, whom he described as "gracious and incredibly thankful that we took action."

In his fiery e-mail, which he sent to some fellow Guard members as well as the newspaper, Barrett vented about a July 22 Globe column about Gates' arrest.

The African-American scholar was arrested July 16 and accused of disorderly conduct after police responded to a report of a possible break-in at his Cambridge home. The charge was later dropped, but the incident sparked a debate about racial profiling and police procedures.

President Obama stepped into the debate and drew criticism by saying the Cambridge police acted "stupidly."

Obama, who later said he spoke without knowing all the facts, tried to calm the debate, meeting Thursday with Gates and the arresting officer, Sgt. James Crowley, for a beer at the White House.

"At this point, I am hopeful that we can all move on, and that this experience will prove an occasion for education, not recrimination," Gates said afterward in a written statement. "I know that Sergeant Crowley shares this goal."

"What you had today was two gentlemen agree to disagree on a particular issue," Crowley told reporters afterward. "I don't think we spent too much time dwelling on the past; we spent a lot of time discussing the future."

Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham, who wrote the editorial that sparked Barrett's e-mail, supported Gates' actions, asking readers, "Would you stand for this kind of treatment, in your own home, by a police officer who by now clearly has no right to be there?" Video Watch Blogger Bunch: Is race discussion possible? »

In Barrett's e-mail, which was posted on a Boston television station's Web site, he declared that if he had "been the officer he verbally assaulted like a banana-eating jungle monkey, I would have sprayed him in the face with OC (oleorosin capsicum, or pepper spray) deserving of his belligerent non-compliance."

Barrett used the "jungle monkey" phrase four times, three times referring to Gates and once referring to Abraham's writing as "jungle monkey gibberish."


He also declared that he was "not a racist but I am prejudice [sic] towards people who are stupid and pretend to stand up and preach for something they say is freedom but it is merely attention because you do not get enough of it in your little fear-dwelling circle of on-the-bandwagon followers."

According to a statement from Boston police, Davis took action immediately on learning of Barrett's remarks, stripping the officer of his gun and his badge. Barrett's prior arrests and field investigations will be looked at for indications of racial bias, Davis said. The department will also delve deeper into the officers who received or viewed the e-mail.

All About Henry Louis Gates, Jr.Racial IssuesBoston

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