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Originally published July 28, 2009 at 12:00 AM | Page modified July 28, 2009 at 10:52 AM

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Tape of 911 call in Gates case raises questions

The woman who called 911 to report a possible break-in at the home of Henry Louis Gates Jr. told the dispatcher that she had "no idea" if the two men she saw were breaking in, and said that, in fact, they might live there.

The New York Times

Miller time?

An administration official said last night that Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Sgt. James Crowley of the Cambridge, Mass., Police Department are scheduled to meet President Obama on Thursday evening. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Monday that Obama hoped to have the two over for a beer.

After the uproar over his comment Wednesday that the police had "acted stupidly," Obama phoned Crowley, who suggested the three men sit down for a beer at the White House. Gates reportedly concurred when Obama phoned him next.

But what to serve? Crowley apparently likes Blue Moon beer. Gates favors Red Stripe or Beck's. Don't look for Obama to order a similar high-priced brand, however.

"The president had a Budweiser at the All-Star Game," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters, hinting at Obama's likely choice.

The Associated Press

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — The woman who called 911 to report a possible break-in at the home of Henry Louis Gates Jr. told the dispatcher that she had "no idea" if the two men she saw were breaking in, and said that, in fact, they might live there.

A recording of the call, released Monday by Cambridge police, raised new questions about the case, which ended in the July 16 arrest of Gates, a prominent Harvard scholar, for disorderly conduct. The charge was later dropped.

The caller, Lucia Whalen, told the dispatcher she was calling on behalf of an older woman who lived on the street and had seen the men — who turned out to be Gates and his cabdriver — forcing their way into the home. Police officials have said the older woman had just moved into the neighborhood. Whalen, 40, works on the block.

"They kind of had to barge in, and they broke the screen door and they finally got in," Whalen said on the recording, adding she also saw two suitcases on the porch.

She later said, "I don't know if they live there and just had a hard time with their key."

At one point, the dispatcher asked if she thought the men were breaking in to the house.

"I don't know," Whalen said, "because I have no idea."

The dispatcher asked Whalen whether the two men were black, white or Hispanic. "There were two larger men," she said. "One looked kind of Hispanic, but I'm not really sure."

As for the second man, she said, "I didn't see what he looked like at all," according to the tape.

Whalen, who was calling on her cellphone from in front of Gates' house, stayed on the scene until the police arrived. A report filed by the arresting officer, Sgt. James Crowley, said she told him she had seen "what appeared to be two black males with backpacks" on the porch of the home.

Police officials stood by the report over the weekend, but Monday, Whalen's lawyer said she had never mentioned race to Crowley.

"She didn't speak to Sergeant Crowley at the scene except to say, 'I'm the one who called,' " said the lawyer, Wendy Murphy. "And he said, 'Wait right there,' and walked into the house. She never used the word black and never said the word backpacks to anyone."

The police also released a recording of the radio communications between Crowley and a dispatcher just before and during the episode. When the sergeant asked if the dispatcher knew the race of the suspects, she answered, "Unknown on the race," adding that "one may be Hispanic, I'm not sure."

After Crowley arrived at the home, according to the tape, he radioed that he was with a man who "says he resides here," but described him as "uncooperative" and asked for backup, saying, "Keep the cars coming."

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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