Ahmed Mohamed, 14-year-old student at Irving Independent School District in Irving, Texas, was arrested on Monday, September 14, after he wanted to show his teacher the digital clock he’d made from a pencil case.
The 14-year-old’s day ended not with praise, but punishment, after the school called police and he was arrested. It was an English teacher who got spooked and reported Ahmed to the principal, the police said.
“I built a clock to impress my teacher but when I showed it to her, she thought it was a threat to her,” Ahmed told reporters Wednesday. “It was really sad that she took the wrong impression of it.”
“They arrested me and they told me that I committed the crime of a hoax bomb, a fake bomb,” the freshman later explained to WFAA after authorities released him.
Irving Police spokesman Officer James McLellan told the station, “We attempted to question the juvenile about what it was and he would simply only tell us that it was a clock.”
The teenager did that because, well, it was a clock, he said.
On Wednesday, police announced the teen will not be charged.
Chief Larry Boyd said Ahmed should have been “forthcoming” by going beyond the description that what he made was a clock. But Boyd said authorities determined that the teenager did not intend to alarm anyone and the device, which the chief called “a homemade experiment,” was innocuous.
Ahmed, who aspires to go to MIT, said he was pleased the charges were dropped and not bothered that police didn’t apologize for arresting him. After he said he was interrogated by police without an attorney present, his lawyer, Linda Moreno, told reporters they wouldn’t answer any more questions about the legal process.
Social media reacts
Outrage over the incident — with many saying the student was profiled because he’s Muslim — spread on social media as #IStandWithAhmed started trending worldwide on Twitter with more than 100,000 tweets Tuesday, Sep 15, 2015, morning. The school’s Facebook page is roiling with sharp criticism of the way the teen was treated, and the hashtag #engineersforahmed is gaining popularity.
President Barack Obama, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and thousands of others are showing support for Ahmed.
“Cool clock, Ahmed,” Obama tweeted. “Want to bring it to the White House? We should inspire more kids like you to like science. It’s what makes America great.”
The President would like the teen to join him and other scientists next month for the White House’s annual Astronomy Night, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Wednesday.
Ahmed said Wednesday he was going to the White House.
Clinton tweeted that “assumptions don’t keep us safe” and urged the teenager to “keep building.”
“I think this wouldn’t even be a question if his name wasn’t Ahmed Mohamed,” said Alia Salem of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “He is an excited kid who is very bright and wants to share it with his teachers.”
Many criticized the school on Facebook. Its creator, Mark Zuckerberg, posted his support.
“Having the skill and ambition to build something cool should lead to applause, not arrest. The future belongs to people like Ahmed,” Zuckerberg wrote. “Ahmed, if you ever want to come by Facebook, I’d love to meet you. Keep building.”
Kevin McKinney posted, “How did a bunch of complete idiots end up accidentally running a school? Were you all yanked out of a zoo and given paychecks? Learning centers are for teaching … not for ruining innocent people’s lives with your racism and pathetic stupidity! … “This kid is destined to be something great if the dimwits of Irving don’t ruin him first.”
Mocking Irving Schools’ motto, Bill Cain wrote: “‘Where children come first’ … to jail in handcuffs. Way to go, Irving.”
Ahmed’s father, Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed, who immigrated from Sudan and has twice run for that country’s presidency, told CNN Wednesday that he was upset the school did not contact him immediately to tell him about the situation.
‘People think Muslims are terrorists’
“My son is a very brilliant boy,” Mohamed said. “We need people like him in this country.”
The teen has never been in trouble, the father said, saying he thinks this is a case of Islamophobia. “My son’s name is Mohamed — people just think Muslims are terrorists but we are peaceful, we are not that way.”
“We live in the land of opportunity to grow and help and the people who did this to my son, they do not see him that way,” Mohamed continued. “My son said over and over that this was an alarm clock and my son only brought it to school to ask for help from his teachers, to show that he can do this amazing thing and maybe get appreciation and to show him (he can become) something bigger in the world — an inventor.”
Mohamed said it wasn’t until after the fact that he received a call and an email from the school, telling him about Ahmed’s arrest and informing him that his son had been suspended for three days.