Dearborn police accused of panicking
Critics claim they erred in notifying FBI, INS of arrests

By George Hunter / The Detroit News

26 Sptember 2001

   DEARBORN -- Civil rights leaders say Dearborn police may have panicked by making a federal case out of a recent misdemeanor arrest involving three Arab Americans.

Police officials called the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and the FBI Saturday to report three men of Yemeni descent, who were arrested on misdemeanor charges of violating the city's knife ordinance and for possession of a small amount of marijuana.

INS spokesman Greg Palmore said the men were legally living in the United States.

"There were no INS issues whatsoever," Palmore said. "With everything that has been occurring nationally, Dearborn police may have called us as a precautionary measure."

Imad Hamad, regional director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in Dearborn, questioned why police called federal officials for such a seemingly minor infraction.

"This is very alarming," Hamad said. "Are the police going to start calling the FBI and INS every time an Arab American is arrested, no matter how minor the incident?"

Dearborn Police Chief Greg Guibord did not return several phone calls Tuesday.

Saleh Saleh, Ahmed Ahmed and Yehia Alomari were arrested Saturday morning outside an abandoned motel on Michigan near Miller. According to a written police report, patrol officer Andrew Stephenson became suspicious after spotting a green sport-utility vehicle moving slowly across the motel parking lot. Stephenson said he approached the vehicle and smelled marijuana smoke.

"Ahmed ... gave me consent to search the vehicle and anything in it," Stephenson reported. While searching the vehicle, Stephenson said he found three knives and "about a pinch" of marijuana.

According to the police report, Alomari told officers he used to work for Southfield-based Omni Facility Services, cleaning airplanes for Spirit Airlines, until he quit in March. The report also said the men, who live in Rochester, N.Y., were carrying about $4,000 cash.

All three men pleaded guilty Monday in 19th District Court to the misdemeanor charges. They were sentenced to five days in jail.

Hamad said the fact that one of the men previously cleaned airplanes was not a valid reason to call federal officials. "There are a lot of people in our community who have worked at the airport," he said. "Are they all suspects?"

Palmore denied earlier reports that the INS asked Dearborn police to hold the three men. Those reports were "absolutely not true. We never asked the police to hold those men," Palmore said.

You can reach George Hunter at (313) 561-3376