Irving Police Knew Ahmed Mohamed Didn’t Have a Bomb, Arrested Him Anyway
Police in the Dallas suburb where a 14-year-old Muslim student was apprehended for bringing a homemade clock to his high school now say they knew all along that the child did not have a bomb, but arrested him anyway.
Appearing on MSNBC on Thursday, Irving Police Chief Larry Boyd told host Chris Hayes without any apparent intended pun that “officers pretty quickly determined that they weren’t investigating an explosive device,” but arrested Ahmed Mohamed anyway on suspicion he “intended to create a level of alarm.”
When Hayes retorted that Mohamed repeatedly told officers the object was a clock, rejecting the notion that the teen intended to create alarm, Boyd said that “there definitely was some confusion and some level of information that didn’t come out immediately.”
“With what they had at that time, they made the best decision that they had at that point in time,” the police chief said.
Mohamed, a good student who has never been in trouble before, was handcuffed in front of his MacArthur High School classmates and detained for hours by Irving police without his parents’ knowledge on Monday after he made the mistake of showing his English teacher a digital clock he made from a pencil case. The bright young high school freshman studies engineering and has won awards for his past inventions. He had intended to show his clock to his engineering teacher.
“I built a clock to impress my teacher but when I showed it to her, she thought it was a threat to her,” Mohamed told reporters on Wednesday. “It was really sad that she took the wrong impression of it.”
“They arrested me and told me I committed a crime of a hoax bomb—a fake bomb,” the teen told WFAA.
When Mohamed was called out of class, he said he was taken to a room where four police officers were waiting for him. One of them allegedly said, “Yup, that’s who I thought it was.”
Officers claimed Mohamed was being “passive aggressive” under interrogation and that he did not provide a “reasonable answer” for why he had the clock.
“We attempted to question the juvenile about what it was and he would simply only say it was a clock. He didn’t offer any explanation as to what it was for, why he created this device, why he brought it to school,” Irving Police spokesman James McLellan told WFAA.
The Dallas County District Attorney’s office announced that Mohamed would not be charged with any crime. Meanwhile, critics claim the only crime that occurred was the wrongful detention of a gifted young student because he is Muslim.
“I think this wouldn’t even be a question if his name wasn’t Ahmed Mohamed,” Alia Salem of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), an advocacy group, told WFAA.
When asked in an interview with Al Jazeera why he thought he was arrested, Mohamed quickly replied, “because I am a Muslim.”
But Boyd told the Dallas Morning News that the officers’ reaction “would have been the same” under any circumstances.
“We live in an age where you can’t take things like that to school,” the police chief said. “Of course we’ve seen across our country horrific things happen, so we have to err on the side of caution.”
Mohamed has received no apology from police, city, or school officials. Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne defended the school by invoking the memory of recent school mass shootings.
“We have all seen terrible and violent acts committed in schools,” Van Duyne wrote on Facebook before editing her post. “Perhaps some of those could have been prevented and lives could have been spared if people were more vigilant. I do not fault the school or the police for looking into what they saw as a potential threat.”
Van Duyne rose to national prominence earlier this year when she successfully lobbied the city council to support a state measure banning Islamic Sharia law, a non-existent threat that is a nevertheless a favorite cause of Islamophobes across America.
Others have been far more supportive of Mohamed.
“Cool clock, Ahmed,” tweeted President Barack Obama. “Want to bring it to the White House? We should inspire more kids like you to like science. It’s what makes America great.”
Offers for internships and to just hang out have poured in from tech companies including Twitter, Reddit and Autodesk.
“Having the skill and ambition to build something cool should lead to applause, not arrest,” Facebook CEO Zuckerberg wrote. “The future belongs to people like Ahmed.”
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) astrophysicist Chanda Prescod-Weinstein called Mohamed an “ideal student” because he was “a creative, independent thinker.”
“You are the kind of student that we want at places like MIT and Harvard,” Prescod-Weinstein said during an appearance on MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes.
The inevitable hashtag followed, with #IStandWithAhmed trending number one on Twitter on Thursday with more than 370,000 tweets. An @IStandWithAhmed Twitter account also gained more than 95,000 followers by Friday.
Despite the outpouring of support, the incident left Mohamed unsure of his future at MacArthur High.
“I’m thinking about transferring from MacArthur to any other school,” he told the Dallas Morning News.
Tagged #IStandWithAhmed, Ahmed Mohamed, Beth Van Duyne, Beth Van Duyne Islamophobic, CAIR, Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, Irving police, Islamophobia, MacArthur High School Irving TX, massachusetts institute of technology, Muslim student arrested for clock