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Twins first base coach recounts what he calls racial profiling by Lee County deputies

Tommy Watkins is the first base coach for the Minnesota Twins. He is also a former Southwest Florida community member from Fort Myers.

We spoke to Watkins Friday about an encounter he says he had with deputies in Lee County many years ago, saying it was an example of racial profiling.

And George Floyd’s death while in Minneapolis police custody, in the city where Watkins makes his living, lit a fire in him.

“It was hard to watch,” Watkins said. “It could have been us, you know?”

So Watkins felt it was necessary to share his experience encountering deputies, moments in his life when he felt he was being treated unfairly by law enforcement based on his race.

Watkins recalled a day in 2007 when he picked up his cousin from the airport.

“We stopped at CVS, we get out, we’re walking in, and, you know, I kind of glanced back,” Watkins said. “And I saw a sheriff car parked behind me, had me blocked in … He jumps out and he says, ‘Freeze,’ and he has his gun pointed at us both to put our hands up.”

“I was scared, and didn’t know what was going to happen,” Watkins said.

What happened, Watkins told us, was a deputy cuffed his cousin and put him in a patrol car while another responding deputy searched Watkins’ car.

“Another one pulled up, said something to him, let my cousin out, and my cousin asked, ‘Can we ask why you stopped us?’” Watkins recalled. “They’re like, ‘You fit the description of a robbery. They just both jumped in the car and left.”

While the incident Watkins talked about happened in the City of Fort Myers, he said Lee County deputies made the stop.

Mike Scott was the Lee County sheriff at the time, and he told us recently, “Our deputies knew then and they know now that we do not tolerate any racial discrimination … I would encourage [Watkins] to contact me. If he truly feels this way, I would be willing to backtrack to the best of my ability.”

Watkins said he never heard a “my mistake” or “I’m sorry.” And, while he’ll never forget that “feeling,” Watkins wants everyone watching to respect every man and woman in uniform.

“There are a lot of police that are really good people,” Watkins said. “I’ve got a lot of friends that are. And I don’t want everybody to think that they’re all bad because that’s not the truth.”

Reporter:Morgan Rynor
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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