The Irving, Texas police department has video of the September arrest of 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed. But it won't be releasing it or several other documents relating to the teen, who was arrested after bringing a clock-making kit to his high school.
To recap, at least one of Mohamed's teachers believed his homemade clock was a bomb, the police were called, and he was arrested. The story quickly went viral as an example of Islamophobia. Emails obtained by Motherboard last fall showed that he and his family got into a shouting match with police at the station, who wouldn't initially return several of his belongings because they were evidence.
One of those emails, sent by Irving Police sergeant Jeff Mitchell to others at the force, confirms that there is a video of Mohamed's arrest:
After I obtained those emails, I filed a separate Texas Public Information Act request for the arrest video. The Attorney General of Texas recently ruled that the video, officer records, internal documents relating to the arrest, and guidelines police followed for this particular arrest will not be released to the public due to privacy and safety concerns.
"Law enforcement records and files concerning a child and information stored, by electronic means or otherwise, concerning the child from which a record or file could be generated may not be disclosed to the public," Paige Lay, assistant attorney general of Texas, wrote, citing the Texas Family Code.
That is indeed the law, but it's worth noting that the public wants to view the Ahmed arrest video not to see how he behaved, but to see how the police treated him. In that sense, the law is protecting the police, not Ahmed.
"Based on the opinion of the AG we will not be releasing any video," Lauren Gilmette, Irving's legal secretary, told me.
Lay's decision also gave the Irving Police Department wide latitude to redact or withhold other documents, most notably internal records dealing with the actual arrest.
"The city explains that some of the submitted information details procedures to be followed in the event of a bomb threat as well as investigative processes and informant information relating to specific bomb threats and the investigation of suspects in a bomb threat," she wrote. "Upon review, we find the city has demonstrated release of the information at issue would interfere with law enforcement."
Lay's full letter is embedded below.