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Feds Investigate Arrest of Boy Clockmaker

DALLAS (CN) - U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch confirmed a federal investigation into how Texas police handled the widely criticized arrest of a Muslim teenager who brought a homemade clock to school.

Lynch acknowledged the investigation Thursday night at the annual Muslim Advocates dinner in Alexandria, Va., when the group's president Farhana Kher asked what the Justice Department was doing to protect Muslims from hate crimes.

"We have, as you may know, opened an investigation into the case of the young man in Irving, Texas," Lynch said. "So we will see where that investigation goes."

A photograph of a handcuffed and bewildered Ahmed Mohamed went viral in September after he brought the clock to MacArthur High School to show his engineering teacher. Critics called his arrest Islamophobia and racism run amok.

President Obama quickly responded with a tweet that began, "Cool clock, Ahmed. Want to bring it to the White House?"

He did so a month later, and met the president with other high school science students.

Mohamed's family then withdrew him from his Texas school and accepted an offer to move to Qatar on a scholarship for the rest of his high school and undergraduate studies.

In November, the family asked the city and school district for a written apology and $15 million in damages .

Their attorney Kelly Hollingsworth, with Laney & Bollinger in Plainview, said Mohamed never threatened or harmed anyone, nor did he intend to.

"The only one who was hurt that day was Ahmed, and the damages he suffered were not because of oversight or incompetence," Hollingsworth wrote to the city and school district. "The school and city officials involved knew what they needed to do to protect Ahmed's rights. They just decided not to do it. Their after-the-fact attempts to couch their deliberate disregard of Ahmed's rights as being motivated by concerns for the safety of the other students has only added to the harm Ahmed and his family have suffered."

Mohamed has suffered "clearly severe" monetary damages that are "quite difficult to quantify," Hollingsworth claimed. He said Mohamed's name and likeness are now "forever associated with arguably the most contentious and divisive socio-political issue of our time."

"Ahmed feel[s] the burden of responsibility for his siblings being harassed and scared to go to school, for his father's business suffering greatly from Mr. Mohamed's absence, for one of his sisters being fired from her job, and for neither of his older sisters being able to find schools in Qatar," the attorney wrote.

At the Thursday night dinner in Alexandria, Kher praised the attorney general for the investigation, saying the arrest of 14-year-old Ahmed "really struck a chord with many parents, so we really appreciate the department's leadership."

"Obviously, this is a country based on free speech, but when it edges toward violence, when we see the potential of someone lifting that mantle of anti-Muslim rhetoric ... we will take action," Lynch said. "I think we have charged 225 defendants with hate-crimes offenses over the last six years, most of those in the last three years."

Lynch said the Justice Department has launched more than 1,000 hate crimes investigations since Sept. 11, 2001.

"Sadly, I think that number is going to continue," she said. "I think it is important, however, we make it clear that actions predicated on violent talk are not American. They are not who we are, they are not what we do, and they will be prosecuted."

Irving officials told The Dallas Morning News on Friday they have "received no communication" from the Justice Department regarding an investigation of Ahmed's arrest.

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