Two black students at New Jersey’s Rowan University say they are in shock after being mistakenly arrested at gunpoint Tuesday, the Miami Herald reports.
Senior Altaif Hassan and freshman Giavanna Roberson were stopped on campus after police received a report of a gunman fleeing the scene of an armed robbery, according to the Courier Post.
Both students followed the instructions of the Glassboro police officers on the scene, exiting Hassan’s car with their hands up, and walking slowly backwards towards the officers, all of whom had their guns drawn. One of the officers had an assault rifle pointed at the two students. The students were arrested, then released without charges.
“I have never been so sure I was going to die,” Hassan said.
The 21-year-old student told FOX 29 he has a lot of experience with police, having been pulled over more than 20 times during his time at Rowan.
“I've been getting pulled over for driving while black since freshman year,” Hassan said. “They check my car, and never, ever, ever have they found anything. Nothing.”
Although he believed this was just another routine stop, things quickly escalated.
The strong police presence brought out students, who watched in horror as they filmed the encounter.
Hassan has posted a few of these clips to his Facebook page.
In one, bystanders believe they recognize him, and wonder why the Glassboro police are using so much force. Some in the video fear what will happen if the officers open fire on campus with so many people standing around.
A second provides a view of the arrest of Robertson:
Robertson said the arrest was terrifying. First, she was worried for Hassan, “I was praying that ‘Taif didn’t trip or anything,” she said. Then she began to worry for herself.
“It was eye opening for me,” Robertson said. “I never experienced anything like this. I’ve never had a gun pulled on me before. It was hard to sleep last night.”
Hassan said he’s having trouble coping with the aftermath of the arrest as well.
“I’m super traumatized last night,” Hassan said. “I’m biting off all my nails. It’s crazy — I couldn’t sleep.”
According to NBC News, the Glassboro Police Department has refused to comment on the arrest. It isn’t clear if law enforcement ever caught the person or persons who actually committed the armed robbery.
A spokesperson for Rowan, Joe Cardona, said, “The police thought at the time there was an imminent threat.”
Cardona said the school is now working to help its students. “We’re working with students, as well as the Student Government Association, to try to organize an open forum to discuss these issues.”
Hassan and Robertson met with administrators at the school, student government leaders and the school’s NAACP chapter on Wednesday. All of Rowan’s students have been invited to a town hall Friday during which the arrest will be discussed.
For his part, Hassan had some ideas as to why the gunpoint arrest happened.
“Maybe it’s the way I look,” he said. “I’ve never seen them do that to white people.”
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