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Police Mistake Eyeglass Case For Firearm, Point 6 Guns At African-American Student

Altaif Hassan, 21, was coming out of a store in Collegetown Shopping Center after collecting his glasses when a bystander told police in the T-mobile store that he saw a black man with "poofy hair" rive away in a Dodge Charger with a handgun.

The African-American student was briefly branded a gunman and was surrounded by half a dozen guns on his college campus in Rowan University in New Jersey. In this photo, a Cincinnati police officer pats down the passenger of a car police pulled over after the funeral of Timothy Thomas, in Cincinnati, Ohio, April 14, 2001. Photo: Getty Images/ Mike Simons

By Pritha Paul, International Business Times

The African-American student, who was briefly branded a gunman and surrounded by half a dozen guns on his college campus in Rowan University in New Jersey, only to be declared innocent and not in possession of any firearms on Oct. 1, recently opened up about his ordeal.

In an interview with NJ, Altaif Hassan, 21, said it all started when his eyeglass case was mistaken for a gun. The biology major student was coming out of a store in Collegetown Shopping Center with his friend Giavanna Roberson, 18, a nursing student, after collecting his glasses when a bystander told police in the T-mobile store that he saw a black man with "poofy hair" rive away in a Dodge Charger with a handgun.

Later, body cam footage from the incident showed that the officer who received the information relayed it inaccurately to the responding policemen. "A man just came into the store saying he pointed a gun at him and took off,” he told them.

The bystander was then seen telling the T-mobile store officer in the footage: "What did he think was going to happen? Even if it is a fake gun? With all due respect, I'm not prejudiced but a black guy in a racing car parked in front of -- not even parked there, but parked here so he could take off."

Hassan said a normal day quickly escalated into something serious.

"I got my glasses, came out, normal, nothing out of the ordinary and get in my car," he said. "So I'm driving, I see the two cop cars. They're in the T-mobile (store) door. I'm minding my business -- that has nothing to do with me so I don't really pay much attention to it."

The police cars followed the two students into their college campus and with their guns drawn at them, ordered them to come out of the vehicle.

Although Hassan said he had been stopped by the Glassboro police more than 20 times during his second year in college, this time was different. “This was the worst,” he said, Miami Herald reported. “There were six guns drawn on me.”

Even his university tweeted out a “Rowan alert” warning students there was a potentially dangerous “individual who was reportedly armed.” On the same evening, the university put out a longer statement, assuring students the individual in question was a student from the institution, who did not possess a gun.

Other students present near the scene of the incident stopped and recorded the events, uploading the videos on Facebook later in the day that caused an outrage on social media.

Hassan and Roberson were seen slowly approaching law enforcement officers in the videos with their hands above their heads. While one spectator was heard whispering, “He better stop talking,” another said, “Please be quiet.”

Yet another pondered why the police were pointing guns in a college campus. “Why is there a f-----g rifle?” the person is heard asking. “Like you’re really about to shoot that rifle on this campus with all these people?”

However, Hassan said he was focused at the time at making sure he made no sudden moves. "What if I trip?” Hassan recalled. “Boom. I’m shot.”

Both Hassan and Roberson were cut loose after around 35 minutes when the police finished conducting a thorough search of their vehicle and found no gun in it.

“Am I not supposed to feel safe on my campus? There’s students all around and guns are being pointed at a car in the middle of the crowd!” Hassan wrote in a Facebook post. “This was extremely unprofessional and a situation such as this one could have been handled differently due to the environment presented.”

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US News: Police Mistake Eyeglass Case For Firearm, Point 6 Guns At African-American Student
Police Mistake Eyeglass Case For Firearm, Point 6 Guns At African-American Student
Altaif Hassan, 21, was coming out of a store in Collegetown Shopping Center after collecting his glasses when a bystander told police in the T-mobile store that he saw a black man with "poofy hair" rive away in a Dodge Charger with a handgun.
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