Glassboro, NJ – Video of Glassboro police making a felony traffic stop during a search for an armed suspect has caused outrage at the Rowan University campus (video below).
The incident began at approximately 4:30 p.m. on Monday, when the Glassboro Police Department received a report of a shoplifting at a store in the Collegetown Shopping Center, the agency said in a Facebook post.
Bodycam footage showed the officer as he spoke with employees inside the store.
“Officer! See that Charger right there?” a man suddenly interrupted. “He just came out of the store with a gun in his hand.”
According to police, the witness described the suspect as a “heavy-set black male with ‘puffy hair,’” and said he had pointed “a black handgun at a vehicle that was parked in the fire lane.”
The suspect climbed into the driver’s seat and took off, the witness said.
The officer followed the man outside, and notified his fellow officers to be on the lookout for a “tinted out” black Dodge Charger, the video showed.
Another Glassboro officer was in the area investigating an unrelated shoplifting, and spotted a black Dodge Charger traveling on Heston Road, police said.
“Officers maintained direct visual contact with the vehicle until it was eventually stopped in the area of North Campus Drive on the property of Rowan University,” the police department said.
“During this incident, the on-scene officers utilized their training and followed established protocol to ensure the safety of everyone involved,” the agency noted.
Cell phone footage showed the officers as they affected a felony traffic stop on the suspect vehicle in a parking area of the campus.
The officers ordered the occupants to show their hands, then directed the driver to get out of the car and walk backwards towards them, the video showed.
The officers kept their weapons pointed in the direction of the vehicle and its occupants as the driver complied with their commands.
“I’m going to call my mom,” a female off-camera said. “This is delicious.”
“I’m scared because if they shoot him, I’m going to be so mad,” she added.
“What? For two people?” another woman said, panning over to the officers with weapons. “That’s not okay…He’s cooperating. Why did you need to bring out that gun?”
After the driver was placed in handcuffs, the officers ordered a female passenger to exit the suspect vehicle.
“Unnecessary…look it! That’s a girl!” a woman said in the video. “He still has the gun pointed at the girl! It’s a girl in the car with her hands out. Why are you intimidating her like that?”
The female passenger complied with the officers’ orders to walk backwards towards them with her hands raised, and was also taken into custody without incident, the video showed.
“They got assault rifles too?” a man commented in another video of the incident. “It’s not that serious.”
“Unless they got a bazooka in that car, it’s not worth it,” he added.
The officers searched the vehicle and did not locate a weapon, the police department explained in the Facebook post.
“The young male and female occupants were provided with the details of why this action was taken,” the agency said. “The occupants, who are Rowan University Students, were compliant with the officers’ directions and the situation was resolved without further incident.”
The department noted that officers “have an obligation to investigate” reports that involve “a serious threat of an alleged armed subject” in order to protect the community and those involved.
The department denied earlier reports that officers had mistakenly stopped the wrong vehicle, and said that the incident was never reported to police as an armed robbery.
“Glassboro Police pulled over the vehicle as it drove onto Rowan’s Glassboro campus and into the Mimosa Hall parking lot,” Rowan University spokesperson Dr. Jose Cardona told WPHT.
“Being that it was believed that one of the occupants of the vehicle had a gun, police followed procedures and drew their weapons until all the occupants exited the vehicle and were searched,” Cardona recounted. “The situation ended without incident. No weapons were found.”
The driver, identified by WPHT as Altaif Hassan, said he believes police racially profiled him, according to the news outlet.
"I am about to be another black kid getting shot down by the police on the internet," Hassan told WPVI. "Just another black kid, nobody is going to do anything about it. It is just going to happen."
He said he was “traumatized” and “embarrassed” by what occurred.
Rowan University senior Briana Andrews told WPVI that she was one of the students who recorded the traffic stop.
"What is going through my head is that 'oh my gosh, I hope nobody gets hurt. Oh my gosh, that is an assault rifle,'" Andrews told the news outlet. "I thought they would have just have regular guns. It was crazy."
Videos of the incident were posted to social media by a Facebook user under the name Deuce Willis.
“I was pulled over on a false claim of a weapon in the car,” the post read. “The police stopped me for 1:30 min on My Yard My Campus. To waste my time and energy and Playing with my life at gunpoint.”
“I cant keep quiet like my voice doesn’t matter, Im pressing Hard,” the post continued. “If you believe in the cause Share it for the culture, everyone gotta know this kind of harassment needs to stop.”
He then criticized the officers for investigating the allegation that an armed man was at the campus.
“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.!” the post read. “This was extremely unprofessional and A situation such as this one could have been handled differently due to the environment presented.”
In a later post, “Deuce Willis” wrote that he realized that his “[worst] fear is to die on camera, for the world to play over and over and over again.”
“Noone needs to feel like a victim to the people who are suppose to protect us,” he railed. “They get paid to protect us, our taxes pay for them to protect US!!!!”
He then alleged that the police department has been harassing him for the past four years.
“I stayed silent only telling friends and family, now i realize that my silence almost cost me my life,” he wrote.
According to WPVI, Hassan said that he automatically thinks of a gun when he sees a police officer now.
“I don’t think ‘protection.’ I don’t think ‘serving me,’ like my tax dollars are going to a good reason,” he said. “No. I am thinking ‘these people don’t like me.’”
Cadorna said the officers handled the situation appropriately, but noted that the university has offered Hassan and his passenger, Giovanna Roberson, support and counseling in the wake of the traffic stop, NBC News reported.
The university plans to hold an “open discussion” about the incident on Friday, in order for students to speak with counselors regarding race relations, according to WPHT.
The Glassboro Police Department has also been invited to attend.
You can see cell phone video of the stop and bodycam of the report below (multiple videos, scroll for more):