American musician beaten by police after being taken for con man

Friday, February 1, 2002

— Spanish police on Thursday said they exchanged blows with a prominent American trumpet player who they mistakenly thought was a con man.

Police said they thought Rodney Mack, the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra's lead trumpet player and a cousin of celebrated jazz musician Wynton Marsalis, fit the description of a suspect they were looking for because of his height and his race. Mack is black.

Mack told the New York Times he was so badly beaten in the incident two weeks ago that he will not be able to play with the orchestra at Carnegie Hall tonight.

Mack said he received blows to the legs, buttocks and back. He was quoted in Thursday's Times as saying he also received a mouth injury that prevented him from participating in the orchestra's world tour. He plans to sue police for assault and wrongful arrest.

A police official who spoke on condition of anonymity told the Times that the officers thought Mack fit the "characteristics" of a man involved in credit card fraud � particularly his race and height.

A Spanish anti-racism organization, SOS Racismo, said it is not uncommon for Spanish police to rough up people of color during spot identity checks.

"They think that these people don't have the same rights as white Spaniards," said group spokeswoman Elisa Gutierrez.

Gutierrez said the organization had offered Mack its support, but he had not responded.