Texas student arrested when homemade clock mistaken for bomb

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 16, 2015 10:50 AM

By Jon Herskovitz

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - A Texas teenager was taken away from school in handcuffs after he brought a homemade clock to his Dallas-area school this week and the staff mistook it for a bomb, police said on Wednesday.

Ahmed Mohamed, 14, was accused of making a hoax bomb. The Council on American-Islamic Relations said he is Muslim and the case serves as an example of religious bigotry.

"My hobby is to invent stuff," Mohamed, a student at MacArthur High School in the suburb of Irving, told the Dallas Morning News in a video it posted online.

The new ninth-grader told the newspaper he enjoys robotics and was looking to continue his interests as he started high school so he showed the clock, which had a digital display and a circuit board, to a teacher. The teacher notified officials.

"They took me to a room filled with five officers," Mohamed told the Morning News.

A spokeswoman for the Irving Independent School District said at a news conference that school officials could not discuss the matter to protect the student's privacy. Police said no charges have been filed and they consider the case closed.

Mohamed, wearing a NASA T-shirt, was handcuffed and taken to a detention center where he was fingerprinted and had mug shots taken. He was freed when his parents came for him.

Mohamed has been suspended from school for three days, the Morning News said.

Police said the device was in a case and could be mistaken for a bomb and police spokesman James McLellan said Mohamed's religion had anything to do with its response.

Two school police officers initially questioned the student and he told the officers he had built a clock. He did not offer further explanation, McLellan said.

"He didn't explain properly what it was and they felt compelled to arrest him," McLellan said.

The bomb squad was not dispatched because officers did not believe it was an explosive device, he said.

Mohamed told the newspaper: "It made me feel like I was a criminal."

The incident has launched a social media campaign called #IStandWithAhmed, which was the No. 1 trending topic in the United States on Twitter on Wednesday with about 300,000 tweets, many critical of the school district and police.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton also joined in by tweeting: "Assumptions and fear don't keep us safe—they hold us back. Ahmed, stay curious and keep building."

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Addiitional reporting by Lisa Maria Garza in Dallas; Editing by Mohammad Zargham and Bill Trott)