The Somali-American teens at the center of last week’s Minneapolis Park Police incident shared Monday their account of “harassment” and demanded that swift action be taken against the police officers who detained them.
Terming it a hate crime against “people belonging to a particular community,” three of the four teenagers who were handcuffed at Minnehaha Regional Park last week after a questionable 911 call described what they experienced at a news conference organized by the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN) at its office.
“After the white kids hurled racial abuses on us, the police came, pulled out guns. We were scared. They [police] handcuffed all of us. One of them stepped on my shoes, pushed me in the car, checked my backpack and pulled out everything. … I was scared,” said Suhaib Ahmed, 14, one of the four teens in the viral video showing park police officers handcuffing them and one officer pointing his gun at them last Tuesday evening.
The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, which announced it will form a civilian advisory review council amid public outcry, said Monday the incident remains under investigation.
“The investigation into the origins and validity of the initial 911 call is ongoing,” the board said in a statement. “Falsely reporting a crime in Minnesota is a misdemeanor-level criminal offense.” The caller reported a dangerous situation with weapons. Police said no weapons were found.
Meanwhile, the two officers involved are still on the job.
At the news conference, the teens were accompanied by their mothers as they shared their side of the story.
“Cops came running towards us. We felt discriminated [against]. We hope this never happens to anyone,” said Aden Aden, 16, standing with his mother, Sirat Guffe, who called the treatment of her son “subhuman.”
“The video shows clearly that our kids were treated as if they were gangsters, criminals, felons,” she said. “They were just playing in the park after school.”
The families, supported by CAIR, have demanded a third-party investigation into the incident.
The Park Board said Monday that it has already hired an outside party to conduct an independent investigation to determine if Park Police policies, procedures and laws were followed.
Halimo Isse, Suhaib’s mother, said the incident has left her family traumatized. “We did not expect that the kids would ever [be] held at a gunpoint by police. Our kids will no more feel safe in parks or anywhere else,” she said.
On Friday, Park Police Chief Jason Ohotto, interim Superintendent Mary Merrill and other park officials met with the families of the boys and some Somali community leaders to apologize. But, Amina Abdi, the mother of one of the boys, Abdijabbar Ahmed, refused to accept any apologies.
“They didn’t have any proof that the boys were a threat. The officers’ approach was dangerous. Our kids have stopped coming out of homes. They are shocked,” she said.
Her son, Abdijabbar, said: “The day the officer pointed [a] gun at me, I thought it was my last day. It was too scary.”
Jaylani Hussein, CAIR-MN’s executive director, demanded a swift investigation into the incident, which he said was the result of a “fake” call targeting Somali children.
“It is not just about the incident. It is about the whole system that has failed us,” he said. “It started as a hate crime and police, instead of de-escalating it, escalated it.”