Police, School Officials Defend Actions|That Led to Ahmed’s Arrest

           DALLAS (CN) – Police and school officials in a Dallas suburb defended the heavily criticized arrest of a 14-year-old Muslim student whose homemade clock was mistaken for a bomb.
     Freshman Ahmed Mohamed said he was arrested Monday after he took the gadget to show an unidentified engineering teacher at MacArthur High School in Irving. An unidentified English teacher later complained about the clock’s alarm beeping in the middle of a lesson and she kept the clock after Mohamed showed it to her.
     “She was like, it looks like a bomb,” he said. “I told her, ‘It doesn’t look like a bomb to me.'”
     Mohamed said he was later interrogated by school officials and police. He claimed school principal Daniel Cummings threatened to expel him if he did not make a written statement.
     They were like, ‘So you tried to make a bomb?'” he said. “I told them no, I was trying to make a clock. He said, ‘It looks like a movie bomb to me.'”
     The backlash on social media was immediate – led by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who tweeted her support for Mohamed.
     “Assumptions and fear don’t keep us safe – they hold us back,” Clinton tweeted. “Ahmed, stay curious and keep building.”
     The hashtag #IStandWithAhmed has trended on Twitter since Tuesday, featuring images of supporters holding clocks. A photograph of a bewildered Mohamed – wearing a NASA T-shirt while being led away by police in handcuffs – has been widely retweeted.
     Police and school officials quickly called a news conference Wednesday morning in response to the worldwide media attention.
     Chief Larry Boyd said that upon further investigation, the device was determined be only a “homemade experiment” and that no criminal charges will be pursued. He sought to dissuade fears that racism and Islamophobia prompted the arrest, saying that “we can work through” this incident.
     “We have had an outstanding relationship with our Muslim community,” Boyd told reporters. “Situations like this make it challenging for us to be effective with what we do, there must be a relationship of trust.”
     Boyd said the responding officers did not call for the bomb squad because they quickly determined the device was not an actual bomb. He pointed out that under Texas law, a person can still be charged for creating a hoax bomb if the device both alarms people and causes a response by police officers.
     “The device was certainly suspicious in nature,” he said. “The student would only say that it was a clock and was not forthcoming at the time. Having no other information to go on, the student was taken into custody for possessing a hoax bomb.”
     Boyd said further investigation showed the device was not a hoax bomb and that there was no evidence that Mohamed “intended to cause alarm.” He cited a possible “naivety” by Mohamed not knowing it was a bad idea to bring a suspicious device to campus.
     Boyd also defended Mohamed being placed in handcuffs, citing the need to ensure his safety and that of the arresting officers.
     “It’s standard procedure,” Boyd said. “We’ve had people jump out of cars while in custody, so we are responsible … they are completely under our control.”
     Boyd said he had no knowledge of accusations that Mohamed tried to call his parents during the interrogation and was stopped by the arresting officers. He denied allegations that Mohamed was mistreated because he is Muslim and ethnically Sudanese, saying the police response would have been the same if he were white.
     “We live in an age where we can’t take these things to school,” Boyd said. “We’ve seen horrific things happen around the country, so we acted out of an abundance of caution.”
     Boyd said he will meet with the boy’s father, Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed, later Wednesday to answer any questions he had about how the incident evolved.
     Irving Independent School District spokeswoman Lesley Weaver told reporters to “let the nation know safety of our students is of our utmost importance.”
     She criticized information reported about the incident as being “very unbalanced,” adding that none of the images of the device reported by the media and posted on social media are Mohamed’s clock.
           Images of the device were provided to reporters. They show a briefcase-shaped case with steel trim with a circuit board and various wires attached to the black matte interior.
     “We will continue to protect student privacy under FERPA [Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act],” Weaver said. “We will be happy to provide additional information about the incident with the family’s permission.”
     In a letter sent home with MacArthur students Tuesday, principal Cummings confirmed police determined the device did not pose a threat to students.
     Mohamed thanked his supporters Wednesday, tweeting images of himself with his two sisters giving the victory sign as the family prepared to meet with attorneys.
     “Thank you fellow supporters,” Mohamed tweeted. “We can ban together to stop this racial inequality and prevent this from happening again.”
     The North Texas chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, plans to hold a press conference outside the Mohameds’ home Wednesday afternoon. The group said it is working with the family and officials, calling the incident “symptomatic of growing Islamophobia in American society.”

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