A video of police officers in Tiburon, California, suspecting owners of a black-owned business of committing a crime while working late is being widely circulated on social media.
YEMA, a black-owned clothing store in downtown Tiburon, shared video footage of a heated exchange between police officers and the store's owner, Yema Khalif, on Instagram. According to the post's caption, the store received new inventory on Friday. Khalif and co-owner Hawi Awash, along with a business friend from DC, were working late to sort things out.
It was around 1 a.m. when Khalif, an immigrant from Kenya, noticed a police vehicle circling the block. He noted that a popular restaurant nearby was still open and the lights in his store were on and visible through the store's high windows. The store alarm didn't go off and nobody called the police and everything was peaceful until the police showed up.
The officer circled around the block thrice before parking the cruiser across the store. According to Khalif, the officer then knocked on the door of the establishment and when he answered the door, the officer asked him to explain what they were doing inside the store so late and asked for proof of identity before informing them that backup was on the way.
Khalif politely explained to them that they didn't have to prove anything and asked to speak to a superior officer, who showed up almost immediately (according to Khalif, the officer called for backup while he was circling the block).
'This Isn't Regular Business Hours'
"It's 1 o'clock in the morning and there's three people in the store," the senior officer, identified as Sgt. Michael Blasi, can be heard telling Khalif in the video. "We don't have any activity in this store at that time."
"The street closes at 9 o'clock at night and there's never anybody in here," Blasi adds. "This isn't regular business hours. There's no customers in there."
The officer then asks him if he's the owner of the store and demands an explanation for their late night presence in the store before asking them to show proof of identity.
"I do not have to prove anything to you," Khalif tells Blasi, who responds by saying they're doing their job and looking out for the neighborhood, including his business.
Blasi then asks Khalif to put the key in the door to confirm he's the owner, at which point, a resident of a neighboring property awoken by the confrontation confirms to the police that Khalif was the owner of the store. Blasi and two other officers then leave.
Watch the full video below:
Mayor Issues Apology
Mayor Alice Fredericks issued an apology on Saturday saying he was "troubled by the incident."
"On behalf of the Tiburon Town Council, I want to extend our heartfelt apologies to Yema Khalif and to Hawi Awash, the owners of Yema, for the incident," Fredericks said in his statement.
"Whatever the intention of the responding officers, the interchange inappropriately deteriorated from helpful to confrontational," he added. "Tiburon Police Officers are trained and held to the highest standards of conduct. A key component of that training is the expectation our officers will utilize de-escalation techniques in situations like these. It is clear that did not occur in this instance."
However, Khalif said in an Instagram post on Monday that the public apology was just for PR and that neither the mayor nor the police reached out to them to apologize.