U.S. NEWS

Black Man Mistakenly Detained By Unmasked Officers in Virginia Tests Positive For COVID-19

Jamar Mackey was handcuffed in front of his family by Virginia Beach officers who weren't wearing masks. Now, he has the coronavirus.

Jamar Mackey, a Black man wrongfully detained by unmasked officers in Virginia Beach, Virginia, has tested positive for COVID-19 and is now suffering from mild symptoms. 

Mackey was handcuffed by police while eating a meal with his family in Virginia Beach’s Lynnhaven Mall on Dec. 19. The incident was caught on camera by Mackey’s fiancée, Shantel Covil, who posted it on Facebook

In the viral footage, which had more than 40,000 reactions and 30,000 shares as of Thursday, Mackey can be heard repeatedly asking the officer handcuffing him to explain the detainment. After police escort Mackey and his family outside, officers inform them that Mackey matched the description of a Black man with dreadlocks who was suspected of using stolen credit cards. Eventually, it becomes clear that the police have the wrong man, and a distraught Mackey is released. 

“This is how we get treated in 2020,” Mackey yells at the end of the clip. “This is why we say Black Lives Matter.”

Mackey, who was eating at the time of the detainment and had his mask temporarily lowered, took a COVID-19 test on Dec. 22, local outlet WAVY-TV reported. His positive test result came back on Christmas Eve.

Covil did not respond to HuffPost’s requests for comment. But she told WAVY-TV that in the wake of the incident, the family is now closely watching their teenage son and 8-week-old infant. Mackey’s symptoms include a “low-grade fever, a cough and a sore throat,” and the family believes they may have been exposed to the coronavirus during the detainment, she said.

“I’m very angry that they put my family at risk,” Covil told the outlet. “Me and Jamar, that’s one thing but our kids, that’s what upsets me the most.”

“They arrested him, of course, no gloves, no masks,” she said. “They took us out of our bubble, out of our safe space.”

The Virginia Beach Police Department addressed the incident in a statement and press conference on Dec. 21, with Police Chief Paul Neudigate saying an investigation was ongoing.

Neudigate said an actual suspect charged with credit card fraud was in custody and a “possible third party” may have identified Mackey as the suspect to officers. Neudigate added that the lack of masks would be addressed at a later date, and it was “absolutely the expectation that officers will use a mask and wear a mask in accordance with the governor’s directive.”

“Right or wrong, we have to be able to apologize when our actions greatly inconvenience a member of the community that we serve,” Neudigate said. “So let me take this opportunity to personally extend my apology to Mr. Mackey for this incident.”

As of Dec. 23, Mackey told WAVY-TV that he was still speaking with his lawyer regarding possible legal action against the Virginia Beach Police. He added that he would take an apology more seriously if it were given to him directly.

I haven’t been reached out to yet,” Mackey said. “They did their interview live on Facebook, but, I will accept it if he contacts my phone, contacts my lawyer — maybe then, I would take it more seriously.”