A black man in Maryland was trying to help out his neighbor — then he was arrested

The Washington Post

A black man who was arrested in Silver Spring earlier this month after helping his intoxicated neighbor said he thinks his race was a factor in the incident — and police said they are reviewing the circumstances surrounding it.

Samir Ahmed, 23, was arrested the morning of Nov. 17 outside his home. After safely dropping off his neighbor, who was drunk and repeatedly falling down, Ahmed said he noticed several cars and firetrucks gathered near his driveway.

Someone had called emergency services to aid the drunk man, Montgomery County police told him. Ahmed explained he’d already walked the man home. An officer then asked him for the man’s exact address, and Ahmed was reluctant to share it, telling The Washington Post on Tuesday that he felt the situation had already been resolved.

That’s when things escalated. In an 18-minute video of his arrest shared to social media — where it was reposted by comedian D.L. Hughley and has since gone viral — Ahmed is seen facedown on the hood of a car with his hands behind his back.

Ahmed’s family and neighbors are seen in the video gathered outside his home, visibly disturbed as they tell police that he did nothing wrong.

“He helped the man. He helped him!” a neighbor is heard yelling. “Y’all got him detained for absolutely nothing!”

After his arrest, a Montgomery police officer explained to the crowd that another officer speaking with Ahmed had “smelled an odor of marijuana coming from him.”

“She addressed him with respect to that, and he didn’t want to allow her to search him,” the officer explained. Police later wrote in charging documents they’d found a plastic bag containing “suspected marijuana” in Ahmed’s coat pocket.

Ahmed said he thinks the situation went awry because he is black. One of the officers claimed that Ahmed was intoxicated and repeatedly stated that she smelled marijuana. He said he was sober.

“If I had blond hair and blue eyes, this wouldn’t be an issue,” Ahmed said Tuesday. “She wouldn’t have been so disrespectful when I showed her nothing but respect.”

Ahmed was charged with resisting arrest, failure to obey a reasonably lawful order, obstructing and hindering, and disorderly conduct, according to Maryland court records.

In a statement released Wednesday morning, the Montgomery County Police Department said it is “aware of the concerns voiced by some community members” about Ahmed’s arrest.

“The Department is reviewing the circumstances surrounding the arrest to determine if any Department policies, procedures or laws were violated during the incident,” the statement read. “This assessment will include a review of the responding officers’ body-worn camera footage.”

Police said body-worn camera footage will not be released to the public now as it is evidence in Ahmed’s upcoming criminal case. Ahmed was also issued a civil violation for possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana, according to the statement.

His attorney, J. Wyndal Gordon, sent The Post charging documents written by police after the arrest. One officer wrote she detected a “strong odor of marijuana” coming from Ahmed’s person.

“We vehemently dispute that the officer smelled marijuana; you can’t smell marijuana in a baggie inside of his left coat pocket that hasn’t been burned,” Gordon said. “It’s a very negligible amount, if anything,” he added.

Gordon said police have not formally issued a citation for the marijuana Ahmed allegedly carried. He added that he doesn’t believe the officer actually smelled marijuana and may have just had a hunch because Ahmed is a young black man.

While Ahmed and his neighbors are heard using expletives in the video, Gordon said it was because Ahmed was upset and frustrated about the situation.

Three of Ahmed’s neighbors, including the one who filmed the incident, have filed a complaint against Montgomery County police, Ahmed said.

“He’s a Good Samaritan being converted to a criminal defendant,” Gordon said, adding that the intoxicated man was eventually located by police but not arrested. “There’s a strange irony to all these facts.”

Ahmed, an audio engineer and producer, said many of his clients told him they are hesitant to visit his studio in Silver Spring out of fear that they may also have to confront police.

Ahmed said he was surprised to see his Nov. 17 arrest go viral. Videos posted to his Instagram and YouTube pages have been viewed thousands of times. Comedian Hughley had posted the video to his Instagram — where it was viewed more than 240,000 times as of Wednesday morning — with the caption “Here we go AGAIN!!!”

Hughley’s post included numerous hashtags such as #policebrutality, #racialprofiling and #blacklivesmatter.

Ahmed is scheduled to appear in court in January.

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