NJ Student Mistaken for Gunman Says Cops Often Stop Blacks on Rowan Campus
GLASSBORO — One of the two students who were stopped on the Rowan University campus and held at gunpoint by police on Monday is disputing the police version of events, saying that black students are often unfairly targeted by police.
Glassboro Police Chief Franklin Brown said officers had been investigating a shoplifting at a cellphone store at the Collegetown Shopping Center around 4:30 p.m. when a man entered the store to tell them that someone had been pointing what looked like a gun at a black Dodge Charger parked in the fire lane. Another officer in the area saw the car as it traveled toward the Rowan campus and watched it until it turned onto North Campus Drive.
"During this incident, the on-scene officers utilized their training and followed established protocol to ensure the safety of everyone involved in this incident," Brown wrote.
Altaif Hassan, a biology major from Trenton, told New Jersey 101.5 that he was at the opposite end of the shopping center during the incident and said that while he drives a black Dodge Charger, it was not his that was parked in front of the cell phone store.
"I had no business being at T-Mobile on Monday," Hassan said. "I was on the opposite side. I was all the way by Kmart by the Dollar Store. The T-Mobile store is by Pep Boys."
Hassan said that he and friend Giovanna Roberson, a freshman from Cherry Hill, were picking up a pair of eyeglasses at another store. As they headed back to campus he noticed a police car two cars in back of them as they drove onto the campus.
Hassan and Robinson pulled over and as dozens of students and staff watched and took video, the students were temporarily cuffed by police as police searched the car. Hassan said they were not told why they were stopped.
"My question is why wouldn't you inform me what's going on at the scene? When you put me in handcuffs tell me why you're putting me in handcuffs so I don't go crazy (trying to figure out) what did I do. That's a very scary thing to have guns drawn and you don't even know what you did," Hassan said.
Brown said that after their initial investigation, no weapon was found in the car and Hassan and Roberson were told why they were stopped. They complied with the officers and the situation came to an end.
Hassan said the incident was an example of the harassment he has had to endure the past four years at Rowan.
"Are you really protecting and serving? I didn't feel protected. I felt like I was being harassed. The same police that pulled me over on Monday were the same [police] faces I've been seeing since freshman year. Y'all have tried it before. Y'all have said I had illegal substances in the vehicle and then y'all searched my vehicle and then y'all find nothing. Y'all do that 20 times in a semester. It's normal to you guys and it's becoming normal to me," Hassan said.
Rowan's website said it had an enrollment of 18,500 in the 2017-18 school year but does not break it down racially.
Hassan said that Glassboro police target black Rowan students and he has never seen any white people stopped. "No caucasian people have ever come up to me and complained about the police," he said.
"It's funny because at my school at least the caucasian community is where the most drugs are circulating. The black community is so small so we all know each other. None of us do any hard anything. No crack, no coke [...] But we are the ones that are getting harassed. A lot of my friends [and] people that I don't know are hitting me up on Facebook and they're saying 'I went to school there in 2003. I went to school there in 1996. It's been the same story. It's not right. I need to see everybody treated the same because every time I see everyone sitting on the curb and their car being checked they're either black or Latino and they're most likely Rowan students,"
"The confusion is that in society nowadays we watch these things unfold on camera online and we are desensitized as a community. We think that is the new normal. That's not the new normal. We need to do something about it People aren't taking this as seriously as they should. In the past people have died; in the future people are going to die if no one does anything about it."
Hassan hopes the school comes together for Friday's campus town hall to discuss Monday's incident.
Brown did not yet return a message seeking comments about Hassan's allegations.