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Tyler Perry: 'We are still being racially profiled'

By Alan Duke, CNN
April 2, 2012 -- Updated 1355 GMT (2155 HKT)
Tyler Perry has written about a tense encounter he says he had with police.
Tyler Perry has written about a tense encounter he says he had with police.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • "It was so hostile," Perry says of a recent traffic stop
  • The filmmaker uses Facebook to detail events when two white police officers stopped him
  • Tense encounter happened "a few days" before Perry hosted President Obama at his studio
  • "Do you see how quickly this could have turned for the worse?" Perry writes

(CNN) -- Racial profiling "should be a hate crime investigated by the FBI," filmmaker Tyler Perry wrote in a Facebook posting Sunday in which he described his own tense encounter with police.

"It was so hostile," Perry, who is African-American, wrote. "I was so confused. It was happening so fast that I could easily see how this situation could get out of hand very quickly. I didn't feel safe at all."

Perry, one of America's most successful film and television producers, said "although we have made significant strides with racial profiling in this country, the world needs to know that we are still being racially profiled."

His posting, which has drawn more than 101,000 "likes" and 18,426 comments, told what happened when two white police officers stopped him while driving from his southwest Atlanta movie studio last month.

Perry has directed and acted in at least 16 feature films. But his movies are most popular among African-American audiences and Perry is often dressed in drag as his "Madea" character.

The misunderstanding and tension described by Perry suggests that the two white officers did not recognize Perry as one of Atlanta's richest and best-known citizens. It happened "a few days" before Perry hosted President Barack Obama at his studio on March 17, he said.

Obama was in Atlanta that day to campaign and attend fundraisers.

"Most times when I leave the studio I have an unmarked escort," Perry wrote. "Other times I constantly check in my rearview mirror to be sure that I'm not being followed. It's a safety precaution that my security team taught me."

Police pulled him over after he made a left turn from the right lane, he said. It was an illegal turn, the officer told him.

"I signaled to get into the turning lane, then made the turn because I have to be sure I'm not being followed," Perry said he told the officer.

"Why do you think someone would be following you?" the officer, standing at his driver's door, asked.

He then heard "a hard banging" on his passenger-side window, Perry wrote.

"I had never been in this position before so I asked the officer who was at my window what was going on and why is someone banging on the window like that," Perry wrote.

"Let your window down, let your window down. Your windows are tinted," he said the officer told him.

When Perry lowered the passenger window he saw a second officer standing there.

"What is wrong with you?" that officer said.

"He thinks he's being followed," the first officer said.

"Why do you think someone is following you?" asked the other. "What is wrong with you?"

The officer on the driver's side then reached into the car "pulling on the switch that turns the car on and off," Perry said. "Put your foot on the brake, put your foot on the brake!" Perry said the officer commanded.

"I was so confused as to what he was doing, or what he thought he was doing," Perry wrote. "It looked like he was trying to pull the switch out of the dashboard."

Perry wrote that he then realized the officer was trying to grab the key, which was not there.

"I reached down into the cup holder to get the key, not realizing that the key had a black leather strap on it," Perry wrote. "As I grabbed it they both tensed up and I dropped it as I heard my mother's voice from when I was a little boy."

"If you get stopped by the police, especially if they are white policemen, you say 'yes sir' and 'no sir', and if they want to take you in, you go with them," Perry said his mother often told him. "Don't resist, you hear me? Don't make any quick moves, don't run, you just go."

"It wasn't until after I heard her voice that I realized that both of these officers were white," he wrote.

The first officer asked him again "Why do you think someone is following you?"

"I think you guys need to just write the ticket and do whatever you need to do," Perry said he told them.

"We may not let you go," the officer said. "You think you're being followed, what's wrong with you?"

Another police cruiser pulled up after Perry stepped out of his car, he said.

"This officer was a black guy," Perry wrote. "He took one look at me and had that 'Oh No' look on his face."

He was finally recognized. The black officer spoke "in a hushed tone" to the two white officers, he said.

"After that, one of the officers stayed near his car while one came back, very apologetic," Perry wrote. Perry did not identify the officers or specify which police department in the Atlanta metropolitan area they were from.

Perry posed a question to his readers: "Do you see how quickly this could have turned for the worse?"

"Now I know that there are many great officers, patrolmen and security guys out there," wrote Perry, who employs a small army of his own security officers to guard his movie studio.

He then made an apparent reference to the killing of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, who was shot by a man who told police he feared for his life. "I'm not sure how a murder in Florida can be protected by a 'stand your ground law," he wrote.

Perry also raised the cases of two missing men -- one black and one Mexican -- last seen in the back of a deputy's patrol car in Naples, Florida, in 2004.

Perry wrote that he has been "screaming at the top of my lungs" about the disappearances of Terrance Williams and Felipe Santos. "They were never arrested, never brought to jail," Perry wrote.

Perry finished his Facebook posting in all caps: "RACIAL PROFILING SHOULD BE A HATE CRIME INVESTIGATED BY THE FBI!!!"

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