By Anna Hopkins
Published July 10, 2019
A white YouTube executive who faced a social media backlash after calling the police on a black man outside his California residential building issued a statement Tuesday apologizing and trying to explain his actions.
In a now-viral video, Christopher Cukor can be seen calling San Francisco police on a man later identified as 35-year-old Wesly Michel, who was waiting for his friend outside the building on the Fourth of July. Cukor can be heard on the phone telling officers about a "trespasser," while his young son begged him in the background to stop.
"I agree with him," the boy said. "Daddy, I don't like this, let's go."
Cukor has since published a lengthy statement on Medium about the incident, in which he argued that Michel was entering the building without using its callbox, which prompted Cukor's questioning about where he was going.
"I want to be clear on this point, this is something I do regularly, regardless of who the other person is," Cukor said. He continued by explaining that Michel's friend, identified in the video as Cathy, was apparently not expecting him, and the situation between Michel and Cukor "turned confrontational."
In the video, Michel, a former software engineer at Facebook according to his social media, can be heard telling Cukor, "Listen to your son," and warning him, "You're gonna be the next person on TV."
Cukor went on to argue that he is overly cautious because of a tragic event in his family.
"My father was murdered outside his home by a trespasser who he confronted alone," Cukor wrote. "For my child's safety, my safety and that of the building, I felt it was necessary to get help in this situation. Furthermore, I've encountered trespassers in my building and we've been robbed several times. This is not uncommon in San Francisco and the bad actors are all different colors."
Cukor did, however, acknowledge what he said is the frequency of police being called on black men who are not committing crimes and apologized for contributing to that narrative.
"Unfortunately there is a terrible pattern of people calling the authorities regarding people of color for no other reason than their race," he said. "The last thing I ever intended was to echo that history — and I’m sorry my actions caused Wesly to feel unfairly targeted due to his race."
At the end of the video, Michel's friend meets him at the entrance of the building.
In his post, Cukor said that he believes people are "good at heart" but can be affected by traumatic pasts.
"It's our past experiences and fears that cloud even our best intentions," he said. "I hope Wesly will read this and understand my history as I have tried to understand his."