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(NECN: Alison King, Cambridge, Mass.) - It began innocently enough. A woman walking down a Cambridge, Massachusetts street called police to report what she thought was a robbery at a home. In fact, the man she saw breaking into the house was renowned Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates -- just back from an overseas trip -- trying to force his way into his own home, of which he was locked out. What happened next is up for debate. Professor Gates said he was a victim of racial profiling at the hands of a "rogue cop", who arrested him even after he showed proof he was the homeowner. The police officer, Sgt. James Crowley, said he was doing his job, responding by the book to a reported burglary. The arrest for disorderly conduct, he said, came only after Gates exhibited belligerent behavior repeatedly accusing him of racism. "There was a lot of yelling, there was reference to my mother," Sgt. Crowley said. "Mr. Gates was given plenty of opportunities to stop what he was doing." What really added fuel to the story's fire: the reaction, Wednesday, from President Barack Obama who prefaced his statement by saying Gates was a friend and he did not know all the facts. "This was one of those incidents where I reminded myself I was screaming at my TV set. It was a very irresponsible statement, when you're the President of the United States. He could have easily have said: I don't know enough about this," conservative columnist Bob Parks said. Parks, of <A HREF="http://www.BlackandRight.com" target="_blank">BlackandRight.com</A>, said the entire incident should never have escalated in the first place. "Citizenship 101 says you don't mouth off to the cops," Parks said. "It never ends up pretty and his response just seemed so over the top talking about: 'I'm a black man in America.' 'You don't know who you're messing with'." Suffolk University Law School Professor Frank Cooper teaches a class on racial profiling. He said men in our society are trained not to back down from a confrontation. "And police officers especially are trained to take charge of situations so when somebody mouths off to them, they're going to get their back up," Prof. Cooper said. "But Professor Gates is a very important scholar and he doesn't expect to be harassed in his front yard." Henry Louis Gates is known for his strong Type-A personality. As one of Harvard's star professors -- he chairs the Department of Afro American Studies -- he can be impatient and surly, as former NECN reporter Dan Harris found out in a 1999 interview. "So whatcha want to know baby? Interviewing Henry Louis Gates Junior is a tricky proposition. I'm busy - let's go," Gates said in that interview. The report, a biography, touched on Gates' upbringing in segregated Piedmont, West Virginia and his attraction as a teen to the works of radical black authors like James Baldwin, Eldridge Cleaver and Malcolm X. "I fell in love with black studies before there was black studies and I would read them in one gulp," Gates said in that 1999 interview. After high school, Gates went to the local community college then applied to Yale University. His application essay concluded with some provocative lines: "Oh yeah, it was like, as usual, whitey stands in judgement of me, in control of my fate. Decide whether you're gonna let me stay here in the hills of West Virginia with these crackers, or whether you're gonna let me come up to civilization," Gates said in that 1999 interview. More than 35 years after writing that Yale essay, it is clear that Gates still struggles with how some blacks are treated in society -- even at a time when a black man sits in the White House. "The fact that this has become such a big issue I think is indicative of the fact that race is still a troubling aspect of our society," President Obama said on Friday. The president said he hopes this event will turn into a "teachable moment" with the focus put on improving relations between police and minority communities. NECN's Alison King reports.