Abdirashid Dahir, a George Mason University senior, says he was arrested by campus police on an abduction charge after a bizarre exchange with a fellow student over a study room at a campus library.
University officials said they are moving swiftly to investigate the incident.
It started last Tuesday, when Dahir settled on a study room at GMU’s Fenwick library after a long search; apparently such spaces are in high demand. Dahir realized he’d forgotten his laptop charger and went off to collect it. He returned seven minutes later to find another student in his carrel.
Here is what happened next, according to an account assembled by Dahir and fellow student Sarah Evans and posted to Facebook:
Dahir asked the female student why she’d taken his spot. She replied that she’d taken it because it was empty. He asked her to leave; she refused. When he, too, refused to leave, she called campus police.
While they awaited police, she told him of “her dislike of ‘foreigners,’ referring to Abdi’s accent, saying how her father was a federal police officer, and that she intended on getting him in a lot of trouble,” according to the account.
Dahir propped open the door. The female student then called police again, falsely claiming he had locked her in the carrel. Apparently Dahir’s voice can be heard clearly on the dispatch recording of this call, repeatedly saying, “You’re lying.”
Officers arrived. The woman gave her account to them, out of Dahir’s earshot. Dahir then began to give his side of the story, whereupon the female student began to cry. At this, officers cut him off and resumed questioning the woman.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Dahir said. “I have a lot of work to do. I don’t understand why this has happened or why she’s crying.”
The officers moved him away from her. After a few minutes, the officers told Dahir to leave the library. He protested: Why was he, and not she, getting kicked out? Officers merely repeated, “You need to leave.”
Dahir went to the campus police station to file a complaint. He told his story to the chief of operations. The supervisor agreed he’d been treated wrongly and asked what he might do to make him “feel better.” Dahir said he wanted an apology from the officers.
The two officers refused to apologize. Dahir asked how long before he could return to the library. He asked for it in writing, so he could take that document to a dean to continue his protest.
At that, an officer told him, “Now I’ll make sure you’re given one year away from the library.”
“That’s fine, as long as it’s in writing,” Dahir said.
He was handed a citation — two weeks, the maximum penalty, as it turned out — and left. He scheduled a meeting with a university administrator who oversees the police, then returned to his dorm.
A couple hours later, one of the officers located Dahir in a study room on his residence hall, where he’d finally set up for the delayed appointment with his studies.
“Now I’m here to arrest you,” the officer said.
“Who did I abduct?”
The officer did not respond.
Dahir was handcuffed and searched, and taken to a magistrate. He says he still doesn’t know the rationale behind the felony abduction charge: On the charging document, the arresting officer merely wrote the definition of the code, he told me in a telephone interview.
In front of the magistrate, Dahir told the arresting officer, “When I become a lawyer I will make sure officers like you are taken off the force.”
The officer replied, “Oh, yeah? We’ll see about that.”
After 17 hours in jail, Dahir was released on $2,500 bond. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for April 6. Since the incident, Dahir has been barred from his hall, leaving him “homeless and at the mercy of off-campus friends with open couches,” the account states. He’s unable to fulfill his duties as a resident assistant at the dorm.
“I am charged with felony abduction,” he told me.
The university released this statement on the affair:
“The allegations are currently under review by both the university police and the university’s Judicial Affairs office. Mason police officials are continuing to look at all details of the incident. If any new information is uncovered it will be conveyed to the appropriate authorities in Fairfax County and to the university.
“The university’s Judicial Affairs office has also begun its process to look into the allegations. Both law enforcement officials and the Judicial Affairs office recognize the urgency of the situation and are moving as quickly as possible. University officials will provide information to the public as it becomes available, and as is appropriate.”
Spokeswoman Tara Laskowski said the statement is “all we’re saying about it right now.”
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