'SNL' alum Jay Pharoah details police encounter, says officer put knee on his neck

"It wasn't as long as George Floyd but I know how that feels."
Jay Pharoah
jaypharoah / Instagram
/ Source: TODAY

Jay Pharoah, the actor and former "Saturday Night Live" star famous for his impressions, including one of President Barack Obama, said he could have been another George Floyd when Los Angeles police officers mistakenly apprehended him, with one officer putting a knee on his neck.

The 32-year-old posted a video on Instagram on Friday detailing the incident along with actual footage from the scene from a nearby security camera. Pharoah said the incident occurred when he was out jogging about a week before the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, another black man who was out for some exercise.

"I am a Black man in America, proud to be but this is AMERICA," he posted along with the video. "Proud to have collabed w/ so many influencers on this one, @theonlycarey thank you for allowing me to express my situation w/ temperance."

The video begins with Martin Luther King Jr's famous "I Have a Dream" speech before the camera later focuses on Pharoah as he recounts the incident.

"Coincidentally, when the footage dropped for Ahmaud Arbery, a week prior to that, I was actually on Ventura, I was exercising, as I'm walking across the street — Corbin and Ventura — I see an officer to the left of me. I'm not thinking anything of it because I'm a law-abiding citizen. And also keep in mind I've got my Bose headphones on, noise cancelling, so I'm in my zone right now. I look to my left, the officer, I see him coming with guns blazing, I see him say, 'get on the ground.'"

From there, Pharoah says he's told to put his arms out "like you're an airplane." Confused, Pharoah said he looked around, thinking the officer was making a mistake.

"No, he was coming to get me," said Pharoah. "Four officers got their guns blazing. They tell me to get on the ground, spread my arms out, they put me in cuffs, the officer took his knee, put it on my neck. It wasn't as long as George Floyd but I know how that feels," he said, referring to how ex-cop Derek Chauvin held his knee on Floyd's neck for almost nine minutes.

When he asked the police why they were doing this, Pharoah was told he fit the description of a black man in the area wearing gray sweatpants and a gray shirt.

"I told them, if you Google right now, Jay Pharoah, you will see that you made a big mistake."

A minute later, Pharoah said the police told him that they had indeed made a mistake. Immediately, Pharoah insisted they remove the handcuffs.

"I had never been in cuffs before up until that point," he said. "I'm a law-abiding citizen. I'm from the 'burbs. Luckily my parents, what they did was they tried to shelter me and my sister for years," he said.

"I didn't experience firsthand racism in America until this year," he said. "Black lives always matter. My life matters. I'm still here to tell my story but I could have easily been an Ahmaud Arbery or a George Floyd."

Speaking directly to other young black men, Pharoah said it is important to be educated on the law and know what's going on. "Be in the know," he said.

"I'm Jay Pharoah and I'm a black man in America. And my life matters. Black lives always matter," he said pointing to the camera.

The video ends with a powerful and shocking image of Pharoah with a knee on his neck and him yelling, "I can't breathe!"