Muslim family demands answers after being arrested for trying to deposit valid check
Washington, DC – Today, Muslim Advocates, on the behalf of Mr. Sattar Ali and his family, sent letters to Emprise Bank, the Wichita Police Department, the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office, and the Kansas Highway Patrol demanding information and immediate accountability following a racial profiling incident earlier this month where the Sattar family, including their 15 year old daughter, was arrested and detained after trying to deposit a valid check at an Emprise Bank. No wrongdoing or suspicious behavior led to the bank calling the police. Background on the case follows below. The legal team representing the Ali family are available for interview, please contact Scott Simpson [[email protected]]
- A transparent and thorough explanation for the actions taken by Emprise Bank employees, including the specific policies and procedures relied on by its employees when dealing with Mr. Ali and his family and the bases, if any, for their suspicion of them;
- Any anti-discrimination policies and trainings implemented by Emprise Bank in the last five years, including copies of such policies and training materials, an explanation of how such policies and trainings are undertaken, and the penalty (if any) for noncompliance with either.
- A transparent and thorough explanation for the actions taken by each agency, including the specific policies and procedures relied on by the officers when dealing with Mr. Ali, his wife, and his two young children, and any video recordings—including body cam footage—from the incident;
- The basis for each of the officer’s reasonable suspicion that Mr. Ali, his wife, and his daughter had committed a crime, including the specific bases that formed such a suspicion for each of the Ali family members arrested; and
- Any anti-discrimination policies and trainings implemented by each agency in the last five years, including copies of such policies and training materials, an explanation of how such policies and trainings are undertaken, and the penalty (if any) for noncompliance with either.
A copy of the letter to Emprise Bank is available here; a copy of the letter to the law enforcement agencies is available here.
“I cannot begin to describe the pain and agony that this experience has caused my family,” said Sattar Ali. “All I was trying to do was deposit a check and get my family settled back into life in Wichita. No one deserves to be treated like this, especially when we did nothing wrong.”
“Mr. Ali and his family were profiled, detained, and publicly humiliated all for trying to deposit a check to buy a new home and continue their lives,” said Juvaria Khan, staff attorney at Muslim Advocates. “What happened to the Ali family is inexcusable, and it is disheartening that Emprise bank and the law enforcement agencies continue to try and justify their conduct.”
On September 6, 2017, Mr. Ali, a 49-year-old American Muslim man of Iraqi descent, entered the North Woodlawn branch of Emprise Bank in Wichita, Kansas in order to deposit a check. His wife and teenage daughter waited from him in the car. Mr. Ali explained to an Emprise Bank employee that the check represented the proceeds of the sale of his house; he brought copies of the underlying documents involved in the sale. Mr. Ali took a seat in the lobby and waited for his check to be deposited.
Unbeknownst to Mr. Ali, an Emprise Bank employee called 911, requesting that law enforcement “send somebody quick” because of what she initially described as a “fake” check Mr. Ali was trying to deposit. In response to the 911 operator’s question as to whether Mr. Ali had created a disturbance, the Emprise Bank caller admitted he had not—but said that he was “overly friendly”; when dispatch asked if there were any injuries to report, she responded “not yet”—then immediately volunteered that she believed Mr. Ali was of Pakistani descent. Notably, at no point does the Emprise Bank employee state that she actually called the bank listed on the check, reached out to the title company (whose information Mr. Ali had provided), or taken any other measures to verify the authenticity of the check.
Instead of the routine identification verification, multiple law enforcement officers physically arrested and handcuffed Mr. Ali immediately upon entry to the bank; failed to provide Mr. Ali with his Miranda rights; failed to explain to Mr. Ali why he was being arrested; surrounded the bank—including Mr. Ali’s wife and young daughter—with multiple patrol cars; failed to provide Mr. Ali’s wife and his daughter with their Miranda rights before arresting them without explanation; transported all three of them to the Wichita Police Department and placed them in separate cells, and kept Mr. Ali handcuffed by his hand and leg while locked in detention. Shortly thereafter, the check was verified as legitimate and the Ali family was released, without explanation.
In the aftermath of this situation, Emprise Bank and the three law enforcement agencies have all maintained that their actions regarding the Ali family were in full compliance with their internal policies and procedures. In fact, an Emprise Bank representative told Mr. Ali that the bank would undertake the exact same course of action if this same situation were to arise today.
Muslim Advocates is a national legal advocacy and educational organization that works on the frontlines of civil rights to guarantee freedom and justice for Americans of all faiths.