“Black Panther” director Ryan Coogler was briefly arrested and put in handcuffs in January after a Bank of America employee mistook him for a bank robber.
The moviemaker was filming the sequel to the Disney-backed
comic book blockbuster in Atlanta earlier this year, when he went to a local Bank of America
branch to withdraw some money, according to the police report that was first shared by TMZ on Wednesday morning.
The 35-year-old director was wearing a hat, sunglasses and a face mask — the last item has become a common accessory during the COVID-19 pandemic — when he approached a teller and passed her a withdrawal slip, the police report said. Coogler had reportedly written a note on the back that read, “I would like to withdraw $12,000 cash from my checking account. Please do the money count somewhere else. I’d like to be discreet.”
The note and the large sum of money, which triggered an alarm on the banking system, appears to have made the Bank of America worker suspicious. The teller, described as a pregnant Black woman in the TMZ report, flagged the transaction for her supervisor. They called the police, and the authorities reportedly handcuffed Coogler and detained two other people who were waiting for the director outside in an SUV.
TMZ later posted the police body cam footage of the incident, which shows Coogler’s shock as a couple of officers surround him, and at least one is seen pulling a gun out of his holster. “Woah, woah — what’s going on?” he asks, as an officer tells him to put his hands behind his back.
As he’s led away, a Bank of America employee can be heard saying, “Good job, officer.”
More body cam footage outside the bank shows Coogler, calm but clearly upset, telling the officers that he had been uncomfortable saying the large amount of his withdrawal out loud with the teller, or having her count it right there. And he has made similar withdrawals from Bank of America branches in the past, he said.
“At the bank, [the teller] never said it was a f—ing problem,” he’s heard saying in the body cam footage, which was being passed around on Twitter. “I put my own card in. Put my own PIN in. She asked to see my ID. I gave it to her. And she goes in the back … next thing, I hear f—ing Glocks. I hear Glocks getting pulled out, that’s what I hear.”
A Bank of America spokesperson told MarketWatch over email that, “We deeply regret that this incident occurred. It never should have happened and we have apologized to Mr. Coogler.”
““This situation should never have happened. However, Bank of America worked with me and addressed it to my satisfaction and we have moved on.” ”
— Ryan Coogler
And Coogler released a statement to TMZ and Variety that read, “This situation should never have happened. However, Bank of America worked with me and addressed it to my satisfaction and we have moved on.”
The TMZ report also claims that Coogler asked for the badge numbers of the responding officers.
The news led “Ryan Coogler” and “Bank of America” to begin trending on Twitter
throughout Wednesday and into Thursday morning, with many on the social media site siding with the director.
“Imagine going to the bank wanting to discreetly withdraw a large amount of cash from YOUR account and you end up in handcuffs,” wrote one reader. “I hope Ryan Coogler is taking legal action because that is a mess.”
Still others noted that approaching a teller and passing over a note while wearing a mask sounded like something straight out of a bank heist movie.
As sports journalist Jemele Hill tweeted, “The reaction to this Ryan Coogler situation is starting to feel very Two Americas-ish.”
This incident comes to light during a period when the U.S. has been facing a renewed reckoning on race. George Floyd was murdered by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in May 2020. His death and those of Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain and other men and women of color involving police officers have directed more public scrutiny toward the way that law enforcement officers treat civilians — and Black Americans, in particular. So reports of Coogler’s arrest naturally sparked conversation across social media on Wednesday.
Recently, President Joe Biden’s calls to “fund the police” during both a New York City visit last month, and as part of his first State of the Union address last week, have drawn some criticism from supporters of police reform and the Black Lives Matter movement.