Police, DEA, mayor respond to comedian’s claim of racial profiling at airport

Clayton County police call interaction a ‘consensual encounter’
Comedian Eric Andre, who stars in Atlanta-based Cartoon Network's "The Eric Andre Show," claims he was racially profiled by plainclothes law enforcement officers at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

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Comedian Eric Andre, who stars in Atlanta-based Cartoon Network's "The Eric Andre Show," claims he was racially profiled by plainclothes law enforcement officers at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

After a comedian claimed he was racially profiled by police at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in multiple tweets to his nearly 775,000 followers, the Clayton County Police Department said it was involved in the interaction and twice called it a “consensual encounter.”

Comedian Eric Andre took to Twitter on Wednesday afternoon to describe his experience as he boarded a plane for California, tagging the Atlanta Police Department and Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms in the process.

After the APD responded that it had not been involved, Andre changed tack and instead questioned the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration through Twitter. The DEA did not respond to the comedian’s social media posts, but a spokesman told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the agency also was not involved in the incident.

Shortly after 7 p.m., Clayton County police responded with a news release.

“Mr. Andre chose to speak with investigators during the initial encounter,” the announcement said. “During the encounter, Mr. Andre voluntarily provided the investigators information as to his travel plans. Mr. Andre also voluntarily consented to a search of his luggage but the investigators chose not to do so. Investigators identified that there was no reason to continue a conversation and therefore terminated the encounter.”

Clayton police did not share the circumstances that initiated the encounter, why the officers chose to interact with Andre or whether any other travelers were questioned.

The prolific comedian, known for “The Eric Andre Show” on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim, initially claimed that he was “stopped by two plain clothes Atlanta PD” officers in the T gates at the airport. In response to an inquiry from the AJC, Atlanta police said their officers were not involved in any such incident and do not search people without evidence of a crime.

“As soon as we learned of Mr. Andre’s complaint, we began gathering information on what occurred,” APD spokesman Sgt. John Chafee told the AJC. “We have determined the Atlanta Police Department was not involved in this interaction.”

Chafee noted that the airport is unique in that multiple law enforcement agencies simultaneously work there.

“Additionally, members of APD’s Airport Drug Interdiction Unit do not randomly approach travelers and ask to search them,” he said. “Searches are conducted based on some type of evidence or indication of criminal activity.”

DEA spokesman Chuvalo Truesdell echoed Chafee’s statement in an email to the AJC. “It was apparently one of the local law enforcement agencies,” he said.

On Twitter just before 3 p.m., Andre said two officers stopped him as he boarded his plane at gate T3 and requested to search him. He said he declined their request and they ultimately allowed him to board the plane.

“At that moment, I was the only POC (in) line,” Andre tweeted, using the common abbreviation for “person of color.”

Just after 4:30 p.m., Andre said he was “hearing” that the officers were DEA agents rather than APD officers, but he did not have confirmation.

Andre repeatedly tagged the mayor in his tweets, mentioning that much of his new movie “Bad Trip” had been filmed here and calling Atlanta a “lovely city.” The movie, which co-stars Lil Rel Howery, is based around real-life pranks filmed with hidden cameras, similar to Sacha Baron Cohen’s “Borat” films. “Bad Trip” was released by Netflix in March.

Both the APD and Bottoms responded to Andre’s claim in social media posts of their own. The APD reiterated that they were not involved, while Bottoms expressed sympathy for Andre’s experience.

“It’s my understanding that this was not APD, but another one of the many agencies working in the airport,” Bottoms said. “We are working to confirm.”

— The Atlanta Journal-Constitution would like to hear from anyone who witnessed this encounter. Please contact us at henri.hollis@ajc.com.

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