Muslim men's arrests spark federal lawsuit against Detroit police

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

Three Muslim men are suing Detroit police officers they claim moved to arrest them last year amid false accusations and bias against their religious identity. 

According to the lawsuit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court, on Sept. 26, 2020, the officers responded to a home on the west side where Khalil Muhammad and Clifford Williams lived and a friend, Roberto Guzman, visited.

Muhammad had called 911 to report a female acquaintance he recently allowed to live in the home had attacked them with a hammer and destroyed his property, the filing stated.

The woman was having personal problems and needed a place to stay after being released from the hospital, said Amy Doukoure, staff attorney with the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which is representing the men.

The federal lawsuit was filed just over a year after the men's arrest on Sept. 26, 2020.

When officers arrived at the scene on Greenlawn, the woman identified the group as Muslims, the lawsuit said.

According to body cam footage The Detroit News reviewed, she accused the men of attacking her.

While speaking with his colleagues on the scene, one of the officers is recorded saying, “Muslims lie a lot.”

The officer also made “several explicitly Islamophobic comments,” including saying that

Muslims are “controlling,” especially toward women, the lawsuit said.

Although Muhammad told police he and the two others were attacked, and Guzman appeared bloodied, the officers didn’t consider that, “nor did they do any investigation into the claims that (the woman) had destroyed property or used a claw hammer to assault the Plaintiffs,” Doukoure said.

One of the officers “admitted that he did not know what was going on" but said they would arrest the men and "let the prosecutor sort it out,” according to the suit.

All three men spent nearly three days at the Detroit Detention Center before being released without charges, their attorney said.

In a statement Wednesday night, a Detroit Police Department representative told The News: “The media notification of the lawsuit itself is the first notice of the alleged misconduct. This triggered an investigation, which will be thoroughly vetted by Internal Affairs. Chief White ensures the community there will be a thorough investigation.”

The lawsuit alleges the police officers “did falsify, fabricate and manufacture information in their official police report in an effort to secure charges against Plaintiffs due to their adherence to the Islamic faith by ... claiming in their reports that (the woman) was coherent and ‘not in a mental crisis while on scene,’ despite the fact that at the scene both officer Defendants... clearly stated that she had a mental health problem.”

It accuses the officers of gross negligence as well as violating the men’s constitutional rights, including equal protection under the law regardless of their faith and being free from unreasonable search or seizures.

The suit seeks at least $75,000 in damages.