Altaif Hassan, a senior at Rowan University in New Jersey, said he has been pulled over “countless times” in his life — but nothing like what happened on Tuesday when police mistook him for an armed gunman on his campus.
Hassan, 21, said he and freshman Giavanna Roberson, who are both black, were stopped and ordered to exit their car as police responded to reports of a gunman on the loose, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. It proved to be a terrifying experience, he said, even though he said he had been stopped by Glassboro police more than 20 times during his second year in college.
“This was the worst,” he told the outlet. “There were six guns drawn on me.”
Hassan said he was driving Roberson, 18, to the student center after classes when it happened, according to NJ.com.
Next thing he knew, Hassan said in an interview with NJ.com, there was a gun “aimed at me” and flashing police lights.
On Monday, the university tweeted out a “Rowan Alert” telling students that Glassboro Police Department had found “an individual who was reportedly armed.”
But it tweeted out a longer statement later that evening, noting that “the incident ended without any weapons being recovered.”
“The occupants of the vehicle involved in the stop were Rowan University students who have since reached out to our office for support and recourse in the wake of this encounter,” the statement read. “While we are still uncertain of all the relevant facts surrounding and leading up to the stop, we are in contact with the students involved as well as relevant university administrators.”
As reported by NBC New York, Hassan shared the video on his Facebook page, where he goes by “Deuce Willis.”
The video shows police telling Hassan to put his hands above his head and walk backwards, which he does. At least one officer is seen wielding an assault rifle in the parking lot.
As Hassan appears to speak with the officers, a woman behind the camera quietly urges him to stop talking.
“He better stop talking,” she said.
“Please be quiet,” a second person asks.
“Why is there a f----- rifle?” a person is heard asking. “Like you’re really about to shoot that rifle on this campus with all these people?”
As Hassan was walking to the officers, Roberson said she was fearing what would happen if he made a sudden movement.
“I was praying that ‘Taif didn’t trip or anything,” she said, according to NJ.com.
“What if I trip?” Hassan recalled worrying, according to NJ.com. “Boom. I’m shot.”
After an officer handcuffs him, the video shows, Roberson starts walking backwards with her hands in the air toward the armed cops. As reported by The Courier Post, both were eventually handcuffed while kneeling, and officers later found they had no weapons.
A second video posted on Facebook appears to show the police stop from another angle.
In the caption of his Facebook post, Hassan explains why he shared out the video of the police encounter.
“Am i not suppose to feel safe on my campus? Theres students all around and guns are being pointed at a car in the middle of the crowd!” he wrote. “This was extremely unprofessional and a situation such as this one could have been handled differently due to the environment presented.”
For Jeremy Brown, a friend of Hassan, the scary encounter only served to weaken the trust between law enforcement and people of color, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
“Within the black community there is a lot of concern when these things happen,” he told the outlet. “Even when they were complying with the officers, they were still being treated poorly.”
Despite making it out unscathed physically, Hassan said that “I was never so sure I was gonna die,” NJ.com reported. As an investigation into the incident continues, the college senior was left wondering what would have been different if his skin was another shade.
“Maybe it’s the way I look, “ he said, according to NJ.com. “Maybe it’s my race. I’ve never seen them do that to white people.”
A town hall is set for 11 a.m. Friday on the campus of Rowan University so students can talk about the police encounter, NBC reported.