Harlem Globetrotters Arrest 1983

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By an edhat reader

Having lived in Santa Barbara for almost 53 years it occurs to me that many younger people and newcomers may never have heard of an infamous incident that occurred in December 1983 when three members of the Harlem Globetrotters who were out doing Christmas shopping on State Street were arrested by a bevy of armed police officers and made to lie face down on the sidewalk while handcuffed.

They were getting ready to leave in a taxi but suddenly were surrounded by a large number of police who were apparently looking for some other black men who had an hour before robbed a jewelry store. The fact that the three Harlem Globetrotters bore absolutely no resemblance to the descriptions of the actual crooks apparently did not matter. The three players later filed a lawsuit against the city.

3 Globetrotters Arrested in Error

New York Times
December 15, 1983

Three members of the Harlem Globetrotters were apprehended Tuesday night by the police, who mistakenly thought they had robbed a jewelry store.

Jimmy Blacklock, Ovie Dotson and Louis Dunbar were in Santa Barbara, a coastal city north of Los Angeles, for a game Tuesday night and were visiting a downtown jewelry shop about a half-hour after another jewelry store in nearby Montecito had been by three black men.

The players were waiting for a taxi when officers in a patrol car spotted them and thought they fit the descriptions of the Montecito robbers, who the police said were wearing athletic warmup suits.

When the players got into their cab, the police followed, pulled the cab over and ordered the three players out and onto the ground at gunpoint. They were then handcuffed and put in the patrol car.

The owner of the robbed jewelry store was called to identify the suspects, but said they were not the same men and they were released.


KEYT News Clip of Arrest

Globetrotters on Phil Donahue 1983

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Roger Jun 04, 2020 02:35 PM
Harlem Globetrotters Arrest 1983

Pretty sure the arrest actually took place on Haley at Santa Barbara streets not on State street I remember the Jewelry Store that was robbed was on Coast Village Road.

SouthCoastPhoto Jun 04, 2020 02:39 PM
Harlem Globetrotters Arrest 1983

Seems awfully coincidental that this would come up now and not in December when this happened... 37 years ago.

Shmonk Jun 04, 2020 02:46 PM
Harlem Globetrotters Arrest 1983

it probably was brought up when it happened, and now its being brought up again. problem?

Shasta Guy Jun 04, 2020 03:09 PM
Harlem Globetrotters Arrest 1983

It was a nationally discussed event at the time. I mean it was surprising that it took this long to be brought up as an issue pertaining to the events in MN. I was going to make a comment about it in the discussion threads. I grew up watching the Harlem Globetrotters, and for them to be treated the way they were was shocking to me. I was just a young UCSB student living in IV then. It was a big black eye for Santa Barbara.

SouthCoastPhoto Jun 05, 2020 11:42 AM
Harlem Globetrotters Arrest 1983

What does it matter, are you going to come loot to try and prove a point? Come on, where are the rest of the Hat vultures at?

a-1591383610 Jun 05, 2020 12:00 PM
Harlem Globetrotters Arrest 1983

SOUTHCOAST - what's disturbing is you, and others on this thread, are so convinced that your ancient way of thinking is acceptable, that you say these things knowing full well that your business could be revealed. No one said to loot, but I can predict that people with take these statements into account when deciding what businesses to support. A woman in Oregon is getting roasted and losing TONS of customers for posting a photo of her kneeling on a man's neck who is wearing a shirt saying "I can't breath!" She tried feebly to defend it, but now her business and name are plastered on the internet as racist. Just be aware, the internet never forgets!

sacjon Jun 05, 2020 12:41 PM
Harlem Globetrotters Arrest 1983

SOUTHCOASTPHOTO: This was NATIONAL NEWS when it happened. Not sure this "didn't come up" just now.

Shasta Guy Jun 04, 2020 02:40 PM
Harlem Globetrotters Arrest 1983

I remember when that happened, and I'm surprised it took this long to get brought up. I was shocked when this happened.

mark snyder Jun 04, 2020 03:32 PM
Harlem Globetrotters Arrest 1983

I was on the island of Granada in the Caribbean at that time an it even made the news there.

Simpleton Jun 04, 2020 03:41 PM
Harlem Globetrotters Arrest 1983

Didn't they play at the Thunderdome? I watched them play there but can't remember if it was 1983.

SBLIFE Jun 04, 2020 04:20 PM
Harlem Globetrotters Arrest 1983

Yes, including after this visit. I remember seeing them at the Thunderdome as a child, it was probably mid-90s.

Lucky 777 Jun 04, 2020 03:54 PM
Harlem Globetrotters Arrest 1983

True fact: the jewelry store was robbed by three BMAs. Would you rather the police NOT stop a group of 3 BMAs in a cab because it might look racist if they did? And if anyone else can remember, I would say there have been at least 4-5 other times I can remember when jewelry stores here, on State and on Haley, have been robbed by BMAs. Handle hidden, fearing reprisal.

a-1591311747 Jun 04, 2020 04:02 PM
Harlem Globetrotters Arrest 1983

@ Lucky, the suspects were described to be around 5'7" in height. These were over 6'2" and wearing different clothing than described. By your logic if suspects are described as "three white women" the cops have the right to order all groups of white women wine tasting or having brunch downtown onto the ground with rifles pointed at them. Now that would never happen would it, I wonder why?

PitMix Jun 04, 2020 04:21 PM
Harlem Globetrotters Arrest 1983

So sensitive Lucky777. Fearing reprisal from scathing posters? Way to stand behind your convictions. Your post shows how far we have to go. Would love to see 4:02's suggestion that if an ethnic group commits a crime, all members of that ethnic group in the vicinity are handcuffed and made to lie face down on the sidewalk. That would ensure some quick changes in police tactics.

sacjon Jun 05, 2020 10:23 AM
Harlem Globetrotters Arrest 1983

LUCKY777 - that is sad that you really think that way. Would you say the same if the store was robbed by 3 white men? Should the police then round up and arrest all groups of 3 white men?

fitz Jun 04, 2020 06:35 PM
Harlem Globetrotters Arrest 1983

Thank you for sharing this unfortunate event. I never heard about this. These are important details that need to be shared now, not hidden away in the SB 'closet'. SB is not paradise, at least looking at our history which, like all communities, has examples of racial intolerance. And it is way worse up in the North County, in SY Valley especially. It needs to be discussed now. Forget all this white privilege discussion at this time. Let's face up to the racial discrimination that has gone on for far too long.

a-1591369203 Jun 05, 2020 08:00 AM
Harlem Globetrotters Arrest 1983

This is anecdotal but I literally saw (what looked like a local Valley) family shopping for Nazi memorabilia at the antique mall in Los Alamos. They gave me creepy vibes from the minute I saw them and their son was decked out in German military garb. And I saw another guy - twice - at the Tavern in a leather vest with a Nordic rune on it. He actually looked really cool to me until my husband pointed out to me that the rune was specifically associated with white supremacist and white power groups. Googled it when we got home and yeah.... super scary. Suffice to say he looked like a loser the second time I saw him.

Lina24 Jun 05, 2020 09:44 AM
Harlem Globetrotters Arrest 1983

That kid in the Nazi garb is Bob Eubanks' (original Newlywed Game Host) grandson. He went to school dressed like that too. Now he walks around town dressed like a stormtrooper. smh

Lina24 Jun 05, 2020 10:08 AM
Harlem Globetrotters Arrest 1983

Re: 9:44, I mean he was most likely Bob Eubanks grandson. I wasn't there, but he's the only kid from the valley known to dress like that.

MountainMan4865 Jun 04, 2020 10:50 PM
Harlem Globetrotters Arrest 1983

I remember they had them face down in the street and being so confused, as a kid, because I had just seen them play at UCSB. They were super stars at the time. There was local outrage, because there was a complete difference in the description of the guys who committed the robbery and the Globetrotters by 5-10" in height.

a-1591366226 Jun 05, 2020 07:10 AM
Harlem Globetrotters Arrest 1983

Jimmy Blacklock - "They asked me to lay down on the white line but the white line kept moving. I couldn't find it, I was that nervous". This has to be one of the key elements for immediate police reform. Specifically understanding how when nerves take over, the mind doesn't always work. Especially when your environment changes so drastically.

mjackman44 Jun 05, 2020 09:46 AM
Harlem Globetrotters Arrest 1983

There are obvious things in policing that must change, and quickly. Our Police Chief, who is a woman i expert in community policing can choose to change tactics. 1) Why humiliate cooperative people? Why escalate resistance? Don't make people lie down --face down on pavement handcuffed like cattle? Terrible image and treatment. Not a wise thing. Sit them in the car and get information. In DUI stops, do not promote hypothermia, panic--just arrest and test BAC. 2) Stop belief that handcuffs prevent a violent response;I can see simply asking for ID --but race is not "probable cause". I recall "primer on cars" was considered probable cause of gang activity in LA. 3) Stop judges from longer sentences because these people are poor and give them opportunities of community service which we have done in the past here; 4) Prevent lawyers from making this all worse by preventing accountability and making excuses--that is racism at work; 5) Support good cops--use black
omsbudpersons on- call to prevent violence and abuse by public videographers watching as well.
Continue to humanize jails and protect staff from horrible behavior of inmates.

tagdes Jun 05, 2020 09:59 AM
Harlem Globetrotters Arrest 1983

Roger was definitely correct...it was on Haley as clearly seen towards the lower Riviera and not on State. Weird how Roger's being corrected...but the RP was the one in error.

aragorn Jun 05, 2020 01:20 PM
Harlem Globetrotters Arrest 1983

I didn't remember the date when this happened, but I do remember it was in the 80's. I thought it was around '84 or '85. But I do remember this, that after it happened the Globetrotters were never going to return to SB to play. And they never did since then.

ChemicalSuperFreak Jun 06, 2020 06:38 PM
Harlem Globetrotters Arrest 1983

My dad took me to the Great Western Forum in Inglewood (Los Angeles) to see them around that time. They were so awesome. We had a basketball hoop over our garage door, and I never could manage to imitate a single trick.

PitMix Jun 08, 2020 09:40 AM
Harlem Globetrotters Arrest 1983

I think I saw them at the Thunderdome in 2000 or so. Put on a good show. Google says we were on their schedule in 2017 too.

doulie Jun 06, 2020 06:30 PM
Harlem Globetrotters Arrest 1983

The detention occurred on Haley Street just east of Santa Barbara Street in front of the Ambassador Laundry.

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