Photo: Rich Polk/Getty Images for Disney
Photo: Rich Polk/Getty Images for Disney

‘Black Panther’ director Ryan Coogler was mistaken for a bank robbery back in January and detained

It happened at a Bank of America branch in Atlanta, Georgia, and came to light in the past few days. Social media has been ablaze with outrage.


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On Friday, Jan. 7, Ryan Coogler, director of Fruitvale Station and Black Panther, was mistakenly detained by police at a Bank of America location in Atlanta, Georgia. 

The 35-year-old filmmaker was attempting to make a withdrawal from his account when the bank teller received an alert on his account because the amount exceeded $10,000, according to the police report obtained by CNN

The teller then notified her superior that she thought Coogler was trying to rob the bank and 911 was called. 

According to the police report, Coogler, who was wearing a face mask, as well as a hat and sunglasses, handed the teller a withdrawal slip with a note saying that he wanted $12,000 from his checking account. 

On the note, he wrote that he wanted the money to be counted somewhere else “in order to be discreet,” given the large amount. 

The New York Times reported that Coogler told police he was paying for a medical assistant who worked for his family and sought discretion over safety concerns. 

He showed his identification, but authorities were called nonetheless. 

When police arrived, two of Coogler’s colleagues, who were waiting for him in a parked car outside the bank, were detained and placed in the back of a police car. Coogler was placed in handcuffs while police investigated the call. He was released shortly after they verified his identity. 

On Wednesday, March 9, the Atlanta Police Department released bodycam footage of the incident, in which Coogler can be heard calmly explaining to the police that he was simply trying to get money out of his own account. 

“The teller never said it was a problem,” Coogler told police, adding that he had used his bank card and PIN number and gave the teller his ID. 

Many people on social media pointed out that Coogler has a minor speech impediment, and that this was likely another reason why he chose to write the note. 

“Coogler is a soft spoken Black man with a speech disability (however minor you regard it) who has had to speak through a mask for two years. I assure you that “discretion” is not the end all be all of why he wrote his request down,” wrote one Twitter user.

In a statement to CNN, Bank of America apologized for the incident, saying that it is deeply regretted, and should have never happened. 

Coogler agreed, he told TMZ that “the situation should never have happened,” but he also said that the bank has worked with him and addressed it to his satisfaction. 

“We have moved on,” he said. 

But for many in the Black community, who have kept Coogler’s name trending on Twitter for most of the day on Wednesday, this is not an incident they are ready to move on from so easily. 

“They could. Have. Killed. Him. I can’t stress this enough. Just because Ryan Coogler is not dead at the hands of police doesn’t mean he wasn’t dehumanized,” lawyer Exavier Pope wrote on Twitter. 



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