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CHICAGO — Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz commended both player Faith Ekakitie and the law enforcement community for their actions after Ekakitie was questioned minutes after an attempted bank robbery last week in Iowa City.
“It sounds like everybody just kind of handled a tough situation, a potentially dangerous situation, in a really mature way,” Ferentz told reporters Tuesday at Big Ten media days. “That’s what you’d hope for. You hope everybody’s got good intent, and it sure sounds like everybody did on this.
“I’m just really proud of the way Faith handled the whole thing. To me it’s a great teaching example for everybody.”
On July 20, officers were dispatched to First American Bank for an attempted armed robbery, according to an Iowa City Police Department news release. The suspect was described as a black male, wearing black shorts and a black covering over his face. The suspect, who remains at large, brandished a gun.
Ten minutes later, Ekakitie was stopped in Benton Hill Park, which is located about a quarter mile north of the First American Bank. Ekakitie, who is African-American, was wearing all black, including black pants, and a black backpack. He also wore black goggles on top of his head. Officers present during the stop were from the ICPD, Johnson County Sheriff’s Department and University of Iowa.
According to a pair of body camera videos released Tuesday by the ICPD, officers shouted commands at Ekakitie — who was wearing headphones — and had guns in their hands. Ekakitie was told to keep his hands up when he recognized the officers.
“It’s probably not you, but we’ve got to check, understand?” an Iowa City police officer told Ekakitie, whose backpack was removed while he received instructions. Ekakitie explained he wore the goggles while he rode his moped to prevent his eyes from becoming dry.
Ekakitie, 23, originally hails from Africa and grew up in Canada. He’s a fifth-year senior defensive tackle listed on the second team and is a human physiology major. He still has a Canadian driver’s license.
On one of the videos, Ekakitie is overheard telling an officer during the process, “I will not lie to you, I was terrified.”
Within two minutes, officers determined Ekakitie was not a suspect. After routine checks, Ekakitie was released eight minutes after he was detained.
Ferentz didn’t become aware of Ekakitie’s situation until Friday afternoon after receiving an email and talking with Athletics Director Gary Barta.
“I had seen Faith early in that morning workouts, and he didn’t say a word,” Ferentz said. “But that’s Faith. He’s kind of a steady guy.
“I think a lot of times in coaching we learn a lot from our players. But I don’t know if a young man could have handled that any better than he did, probably especially pertinent in these times right now as a country and all the unrest and things going on. I couldn’t be more proud of him and the way he handled it. I can’t imagine what it would be like to experience that from his aspect, and it sounds like he did a great job and it sounds like law enforcement did a great job, too. Hopefully it’s a learning situation for everyone nationally, not just locally.”
Ekakitie rode to the park on his moped and was playing Pokemon Go. While wearing headphones, he initially didn’t hear the officers’ instructions. Ekakitie shared his thoughts on the incident in a Facebook post last week. Ferentz, who has banned his players from using Twitter, complimented Ekakitie’s use of social media in this example.
“If everybody handled the social media with the same fashion as Faith did, we’d have no restrictions at all,” Ferentz said. “I think he’s really to be commended. To me it’s a great teaching opportunity and he took advantage of it.
“Nationally, we all could learn from the way he handled it.”
Like Ferentz, Barta applauded Ekakitie’s judgment.
“To imagine what he must have been going through — which I can’t — then on the flip side, knowing what’s been going on nationally, with police officers, the anxiety that group must have felt when they thought they were approaching a suspect from a bank robbery,” Barta said. “I’m grateful that both sides were incredibly professional. I’m glad that Faith is OK, and it ended well.”
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