"I failed miserably in that regard": Philadelphia police commissioner responds after week of controversy

Last Updated Apr 19, 2018 7:08 PM EDT

PHILADELPHIA -- Philadelphia's police commissioner apologized Thursday for his remarks following the arrests of two black men at Starbucks. Video of the racially-charged incident went viral and set off a week of protests. Those protesters showed up this time outside Philadelphia's police headquarters -- despite an apology from commissioner Richard Ross.

"Messaging is important and I failed miserably in this regard," Ross said.

Despite that admission, Ross defended the actions of his officers when they arrested two black men at a Starbucks last week. The incident was captured on cellphone video and posted online.

"It is important to emphasize and underscore that these officers had legal standing to make this arrest," Ross said over the weekend. "These officers did absolutely nothing wrong."

But Thursday, he took the blame for making what he said was a bad situation worse.

"I can appreciate in light of the Starbucks policy and how well know it is to many, why these two men were appalled when they were asked to leave. For this reason, me, I apologize," Ross said.

Starbucks Black Men Arrested

Rashon Nelson (L) and Donte Robinson (R)

AP

His remarks came hours after the two men, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, told ABC their story.

"As soon as they approached us they just say we have to leave," Nelson said. "There was no question of you, you know, was there a problem here with you and the manager."

"At the time we wasn't [sic] read any rights, nothing," Robinson said. "Just double-locked in handcuffs behind our back and escorted out to the squad car."

Starbucks' Howard Schultz "ashamed" after controversial arrest of 2 black men

Starbucks has apologized to the men and will be training all of its employees on how to avoid discriminating against customers. Lorie Friedell trains police on the subject.

"After they get the training, a person will be able to stop and ask themselves, 'Would I be responding this way to this person in Starbucks,'" Friedell said.

Nelson and Robinson said they want change after what they went through and believe Starbucks' plan to shut down its stores in May for racial sensitivity training is a good start.

  • Michelle Miller

    Michelle Miller is an award-winning CBS News correspondent based in New York, reporting for all CBS News broadcasts and platforms. Her work regularly appears on the "CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley", "CBS This Morning" and "CBS Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood". She joined CBS News in 2004.