Police in Texas have arrested a 14-year-old boy for building a clock. Ahmed Mohamed, who lives in Irving and has a keen interest in robotics and engineering, put the device together on Sunday night. When he took it to school the next day, he was pulled out of class, interviewed by police officers, and taken in handcuffs to juvenile detention, after being told by teachers that his creation looked like a bomb.
Ahmed told The Dallas Morning News that he showed his clock — a simple device, created from a circuit board and a power supply wired to a digital display, all strapped inside a case with a tiger hologram on the front — to his engineering teacher first, who advised him not to show any other staff members at MacArthur High School. He originally kept it in his bag during English class, but his teacher heard it beep during the lesson — when Ahmed showed her his home-made clock at the end of class, she took it away from him. In sixth period, the school principal came for Ahmed with a police officer in tow, arresting him and marching him out of school. The schoolboy says he was interrogated by five officers, who asked why he was trying to make a bomb, and was threatened with expulsion by his Principal unless he made a written statement.
Irving police might still charge Ahmed with making a “hoax bomb.” Police spokesperson James McLellan said Ahmed “kept maintaining it was a clock” when he was brought in for interrogation, but that he offered “no broader explanation.” When asked by The Dallas Morning News what broader explanation Ahmed could have given for a clock that was actually a clock, McLellan said the creation “could reasonably be mistaken as a device if left in a bathroom or under a car.” A police report released on Tuesday cites three MacArthur High teachers as complainants against Ahmed for the “hoax bomb.”
Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed, Ahmed’s father, says his child suffered because of prejudice against Muslims. “Because his name is Mohamed and because of September 11th,” Mohamed told The Dallas Morning News, “I think my son got mistreated.” The Council on American-Islamic Relations is already investigating Ahmed’s case, with Alia Salem, the director of the council’s North Texas chapter, saying that it seemed “pretty egregious.”
Ahmed said he was a member of his middle school’s robotics club, and had tried to find a similar group in his high school. Now the 14-year-old — born in the same year that the terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon took place — says he’ll no longer bring any of his inventions into school. A picture reportedly taken by Ahmed’s sister shows him in handcuffs at the juvenile detention center, sporting a NASA T-shirt and an understandably confused expression. Ahmed was fingerprinted, before being allowed to return home, but is still serving a three-day suspension from school.
Many in the maker and tech community have already rallied around him. A hashtag — #IStandWithAhmed — rapidly rose to become one of Twitter’s top trending topics, and support has come from a number of sources, including a JPL engineer who offered Ahmed the chance to see a Mars rover whenever he wants. Ahmed’s father says his son “just wants to invent good things for mankind” — we can hope that the police reaction won’t dissuade the talented young creator from making good on his dream.
Initially reported by The Dallas Morning News and The Verge