'SNL' Alum Jay Pharoah Details 'Scary' Incident with LAPD

Saturday Night Live alum Jay Pharoah spoke at length about an experience he had with the Los Angeles Police Department in April, where he was handcuffed and an officer placed his knee on his neck, in a new interview on Wednesday.

Speaking to Gayle King on CBS This Morning, the actor and comedian said he was stopped by LAPD because he matched with the description of a suspect. Pharoah said he was stopped while on a run. "I'm walking across the street, and all of a sudden, I hear, 'Get on the ground,'" he said.

Pharoah said he was surprised that police were talking to him. "I don't have any run-ins with the law. I've never even had a ticket," he said. "I've never had guns pointed at me, Gayle. I've never had handcuffs put on me."

Pharoah then explained that the police told him to lay on the ground and spread his arms out. He said that the officer put his knee on his body and handcuffed him. Later in the interview, the comedian indicated that the officer's knee was on the bottom of his neck. Even though he was confused about what was going on, he said the officers told him that he matched the description of a suspect. "The description was a black man in gray sweatpants and a gray shirt," which he said he was wearing.

King asked Pharoah how he felt he should have been approached. "I think the right way to handle the situation would have been for the cops to calmly come up to me, since they see I don't have anything on me," he said. "They should have been like, 'Hey man, we're having a problem right now,' and they ask you if you have your ID, because there's somebody who just ran, fled the scene, from police officers, and 'We're looking for him.'"

Even though the incident was before George Floyd's death, he said he was still scared for his life and wondered why the officer had to use that kind of force to detain him. "Luckily, they pulled me up, and I got out of it, but why does it have to go to that extremity when I'm an innocent bystander?" he questioned. "We should never have to feel like our lives are in danger, when we're doing regular, human activities."

"When I see guns coming towards me, my natural instinct is: oh snap, I could die," he said.

Pharaoh also said that he told the officers that they could Google him, despite him not having his ID. He also said that shortly after the incident the police came back and apologized, but he said that that wasn't enough and called for police reform. "They said, 'I'm-Oh, sorry. Sorry.' That's not enough. There needs to be some practice with this policing, reform," he said. "I don't want to see another 20 black people be martyrs for no reason."

Towards the interview, he said that he called Family Feud host Steve Harvey, who made a quip about the incident. "He said, 'You got a being-black-in-America sandwich...' I've eaten it, and it don't taste good," he said. "You know what tastes good? Just being a beautiful black person."

After the interview, King said the LAPD responded that they were investigating the video of the incident in a statement.

Pharoah's publicist did not respond to Newsweek's emailed request for comment in time for publication. LAPD said they were unable to accommodate Newsweek's request for comment.

Jay Pharoah
Jay Pharoah attends 2019 NBA Awards at Barker Hangar on June 24, 2019 in Santa Monica, California. Leon Bennett/WireImage/Getty