Rashed Mian

Rashed Mian has been covering local news for the Long Island Press since 2011. He graduated from Hofstra University in 2010 where he studied print journalism. Rashed, the staff's multimedia reporter, covers daily news for the web, shoots/edits feature videos and writes about civil liberties. He loves Afghan food and sports. Rashed is also a caffeine freak. Email: rmian@longislandpress.com. Twitter: rashedmian

Muslim Teen’s Arrest In Texas Over Homemade Clock Sparks Outrage

Mohamed Ahmed arrest
Mohamed Ahmed, 14, was arrested after school officials and law enforcement mistook a homemade clock for a bomb. (Photo credit: Twitter: Anil Dash)

The arrest of a 14-year-old Muslim high school student in Texas for bringing a homemade clock to class has sparked a national uproar about Islamophobia.

Mohamed Ahmed, an eighth grader at MacArthur High School in Irving, Texas, has an affinity for building electronic gadgets in his bedroom. He rose to fame overnight as social media erupted over his controversial arrest on Monday. By Wednesday afternoon, he’d been invited to meet President Obama at the White House–with the clock in hand.

Ahmed’s whirlwind ordeal began when he decided to bring it to school to impress his teachers. One science teacher complimented Ahmed but warned him not to show it to anyone else. Acting on his teacher’s advice, Ahmed left it in his schoolbag. But the clock’s alarm sounded during his sixth-period English class, prompting that teacher to notify the principal and confiscate the clock, which Ahmed had built at his home in 20 minutes.

“It looks like a bomb,” the teacher purportedly told Ahmed, according to the Dallas Morning News.

“I told her, ‘It doesn’t look like a bomb to me,’” Ahmed replied.

Ahmed was eventually led into the principal’s office with a police escort. He was handcuffed despite vehemently explaining that the presumed “bomb” was indeed a working clock, according to news reports.

“We have no information that he claimed it was a bomb,” said Irving Police spokesperson James McLellan, according to the Dallas Morning News. “He kept maintaining it was a clock, but there was no broader explanation.”

Following his arrest, a photo of Ahmed in handcuffs surfaced on social media. The hashtag #IStandWithAhmed became the No. 1 trending topic on Twitter Wednesday morning, featuring a bevy of support and Tweets lampooning police and school officials for what many considered an overreaction and an example of blatant American Islamophobia.


Dr. Hussein Rashid, an adjunct assistant professor of religion at Hofstra University and founder of the consultancy group islamicate, L3C, which focuses on religious literacy and cultural competency, began laughing when he was asked about Ahmed’s arrest.

“I’m utterly flabbergasted,” said Rashid. “You got to think about the multiple failures that had to happen here, right? A student who wants to prove he’s good in science goes to his teacher and says, ‘I am a good student.'”

Rashid criticized the teacher and school administration in Texas for involving law enforcement.

“It’s a perfect storm of social factors,” continued Rashid. “There’s a culture of Islamophobia, where your first thought anytime you see a brown person acting smart is that they must be a terrorist because we’ve got this long history of racism where people of color are inherently stupid. And then, so a brown, smart person is a terrorist.”

When it was first revealed that the NYPD was spying on Muslim communities on Long Island, the five boroughs and in New Jersey, Muslim groups said such tactics would discourage members of the community to speak their mind, and in some cases pray at their mosque, out of fear that something they say or do could make them a target of law enforcement.

“This has a real impact beyond getting eighth graders arrested for trying to impress the teacher,” Rashid added. “This has a very casual [message]: we’re all being surveyed right now.”

Dr. Isma Chaudhry, president of Westbury’s Islamic Center of Long Island, was mystified when a Press reporter informed her of Ahmed’s arrest in Texas.

“For how long will ethnic minorities walk on eggshells?” she asked. “That is not right. It’s counterproductive to everything, every belief, that we as Americans have. It doesn’t have to be a religious belief, but a belief in freedom of an individual living a peaceful life. Ethnic minorities have to constantly prove themselves because of a certain name or because of a skin color or because of hair color or eye color.”

MacArthur High School in Irving released a statement following Ahmed’s arrest, noting that the Irving Police Department had responded to a “suspicious looking item on campus.”

“We are pleased to report that after the police department’s assessment, the item discovered at school did not pose a threat to your child’s safety,” said the statement.

Irving police said Wednesday that Ahmed would not face criminal charges.

Ahmed, who has been bombarded with interview requests, thanked his supporters on Twitter.


President Obama showed his support by inviting Ahmed—and his clock—to the White House.


Peter King: Obama’s Plan For Syrian Refugees Would Endanger Americans

President Obama’s plan to accept at least 10,000 war-weary Syrians desperate to resettle in the West because of a merciless civil war back home would endanger the lives of US citizens, Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) said in a statement Thursday.

King, chairman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counterintelligence and Terrorism, was swift in his objection to Obama’s plan, which comes as a divided Europe struggles to comes to grips with what has been described as the largest humanitarian crisis since World War II.

America, King said, is ill-equipped to properly scrutinize each individual that would enter the country in the 12-month time frame imposed by the administration. The outspoken congressmen also speculated that Middle Eastern refugees, who are mostly Muslim, could pose a threat, even invoking the Boston Marathon bombing.

“This decision is in direct contrast to opinion of leading law enforcement and intelligence officials in this Administration,” King said in a statement. “We do not have the capability to vet these individuals nor will we be able to develop it in the next twelve months. The Administration is moving forward full speed ahead without the necessary security backbone in place.”

“It is vital that we measure our humanitarian beliefs against the security risks of bringing more than 10,000 unknown individuals into the Homeland,” King continued. “I oppose this decision. We do not want another Boston Marathon Bombing.”

Far right groups in Europe have protested decisions by their respective countries to accept downtrodden refugees, mostly Syrians fleeing a war-torn country that has endured bombings by its own government and the threat of the so-called Islamic State (IS). Fear of IS using the crisis as a cover to infiltrate Europe reached such a fever pitch that people on social media are sharing photos of men who they claim to be militants. Specifically, a before-and-after photo of a man in military gear and holding a weapon next to another of him in a green t-shirt and sunglasses went viral after Internet users accused him of being a militant. He turned out to be a former member of the Free Syrian Army, according to a recent profile of the man published by the Associated Press. The BBC was the first to refute the claims posted on social media.

The divisive issue has Europe split. Germany is poised to welcome 800,000 refugees this year alone while Hungary’s prime minister is on record saying authorities will start arresting those crossing the border.

Many blame the West’s response, or lack thereof, to the Syrian civil war for the current crisis enveloping Europe. The number of Syrians displaced due to the conflict has reached 12 million, and half of those who have been uprooted are children, according to World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization. The plight of the refugees has dominated news coverage in recent weeks, but the worlds conscience wasn’t truly shocked until raw photos emerged of a Syrian boy’s lifeless body on a beach in Turkey, leading to an outcry of support for the migrants.

The Syrian American Council, which claims to be the largest Syrian-American community organization in the US, plans to hold a “#LetThemIn” rally in Washington, DC Saturday and will call on international governments to accept more refugees.

During a press briefing on Friday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the US has already given relief agencies $4 billion to help those fleeing Syria en masse. He also noted that the “top concern” when deciding on how to adopt policy related to the crisis is “the safety and security” of the United States.

“I can tell you that refugees go through the most robust security process of anybody who’s contemplating travel to the United States,” he told reporters. “Refugees have to be screened by the National Counterterrorism Center, by the FBI Terrorist Screening Center. They go through databases that are maintained by DHS, the Department of Defense and the intelligence community. There is biographical and biometric information that is collected about these individuals. They have to submit to in-person interviews to discuss their case.”

That process typically takes 12 to 18 months,” Earnest said. Those wishing to come to the United States must apply through the United Nations.

Wyandanch Man, 27, Killed in Shooting, Cops Say

A 27-year-old Wyandanch man was killed in a shooting at his home early Friday morning, Suffolk County police said.

First Precinct officers initially responded to 116 S. 29th Street at 3:30 a.m. after someone called 911 reporting a shooting.

The shooting victim was identified as Tehron Sims, police said. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Sims lived in the home where the shooting occurred, police said.

Police said the investigation is ongoing.

Anyone with information on the shooting is asked to call the Homicide Squad at 631-852-6392 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS. All calls are anonymous.

Man Unapologetic After Arrest for Tampering with Red Light Cameras

Stephen Ruth has been hailed as a hero by some for tampering with unpopular red light cameras.

A red light camera opponent who has been burned by the unpopular devices in the past was arrested Tuesday after police uncovered video of him allegedly tampering with cameras along the Long Island Expressway service road in Ronkonkoma—a form of vandalism that has some on social media hailing the man as a hero.

Suffolk County police arrested 42-year-old Stephen Ruth at his Centereach home on charges of criminal tampering and obstruction of governmental administration. He was released on bail and his initial court date is set for Oct. 27, according to a post on his Facebook page.

Police said they learned of the tampering after the Sixth Precinct received anonymous tips regarding a social media video showing Ruth allegedly using an expandable pole to aim the cameras toward the sky, therefore preventing the devices from capturing vehicles running red lights or failing to stop long enough before making a right turn.

Ruth allegedly tampered with a camera located on Ocean Avenue and the Long Island Expressway South Service Road on Aug. 21 and again on Aug. 24, police said. He also adjusted cameras on Hawkins Avenue, along the LIE South Service Road on Tuesday afternoon, police said.

Ruth, who is all smiles in his mug shot, explained his actions in an unapologetic Facebook post written after his release.

“To all the people thinking ‘why would he do that? Didn’t he think he was going to get arrested?’ Of course I knew I would be arrested,” Ruth wrote. “I did it for the people who come back from war and get abused by these cameras. I did it because senior citizens are getting these, the same ones that went to war for us. These same seniors live in New York’s high cost environment and are being forced out of New York because of its high taxes.

“I also did it because every vehicle that you see with an out of state license plate is not receiving these tickets regardless of who they are,” he continued. “These same people live in our state and pay lower insurance rates because their cars are registered out of state under someone else’s name.”

However, drivers of vehicles with out-of-state plates do receive red light camera tickets mailed home when they’re caught blowing lights on Long Island.

In a shaky self-shot how-to YouTube video, Ruth, wearing a white collared shirt and a tie, explains how simple it is to “take the power back” and save “innocent people a lot of money.”

“In order to do this successfully you only need a pair of balls and a painter’s extension rod,” he said in the video. “I’m going to show you how easy it is to take the power back. It doesn’t take but more than a minute to do this, and the gratification—the gratification is huge!”

He proceeds to poke at a red light camera with a pole, adjusting it upwards in order to prevent it from snapping photos of drivers’ license plates.

“I just saved people about $10,000 today with this camera,” he estimated.

Aside from his self-declared mission to save red-light-blowing drivers cash, it appears Ruth also had a personal grudge against one of the cameras.

“This camera has gotten me numerous times for not waiting three seconds,” he says, apparently referring to the amount of time a driver is mandated to wait before making a legal right turn when stopped at a red light. “Who’s to say that I need to wait three seconds after I clearly see that there’s no one coming in my direction? This is government taking advantage—and it’s gonna stop!”

Ruth’s anti-red light camera rant and actions have some on social media commending him for taking matters into his own hands.

“This guy is my hero,” one YouTube user wrote in the comment section under the video.

“Red light revolution,” declares another.

But not everyone came to Ruth’s defense. One YouTube user chided Ruth for complaining about waiting three seconds before turning and said the authorities were correct to arrest him.

Red light cameras have been a source of aggravation for Long Islanders since their initial rollout in Nassau County in 2009 and in Suffolk County in the summer of 2010.

Opponents charge that the cameras exist only to make money off of unsuspecting drivers. Government officials who support the initiative say the cameras prevent crashes by forcing drivers to hit the brakes when a traffic light turns yellow.

Suit: Men Sexually Harassed by Valley Stream North High School Department Head

Lenard Leeds (left) with his two clients, John Brennan (middle) and Alphonso Daddino (right) following a press conference announcing a sexual harassment complaint against a former department head at Valley Stream North High School.

A former department head at Valley Stream North High School frequently made unsolicited passes at a pair of male colleagues and boasted about her past sexual triumphs, which created a “toxic” work environment for teachers and students, according to sexual harassment complaint filed Monday against the school district.

The allegations against veteran social studies teacher Cecilia Sanossian, who became chair of the Social Studies Department in the 2009-2010 school year before recently stepping down, was the result of years of disregarded complaints and deafening silence from the Valley Stream Central School District, according to two social studies teachers bringing the complaint.

“To see nothing be done about it…it really hurt, it really upset me,” Alphonso Daddino of Garden City said at Carle Place office of the law firm Leeds Brown Law PC.

“We were getting ignored through every channel,” said John Brennan of Brooklyn, who claimed he was first sexually harassed during the 2009-2010 school year.

Both men said they were victims of unwanted advances through the years and had to endure suggestive comments that disrupted the work environment and caused physical and emotional stress.

Brennan, who is married, alleged that Sanossian would massage his shoulders and neck and caress his scalp even after he’d decline her offers, which made him feel powerless, he said.

“I got to the point where I wouldn’t even go to our office anymore,” he said.

In the complaint filed with the New York State Division of Human Rights, Daddino said he was touched inappropriately on his back, arms and shoulders. Sanossian also made lewd comments, such as “I give the best head,” explaining her preference for older men, and an admission that she and her sisters are known for their “great assess but not their breasts,” the complaint states.

Brennan claimed that the sexual harassment would continue even after he had made official complaints to the administration. “Sanossian made comments to John such as: ‘I could just kiss you,’” and in one instance, invited him over to shower at her house, according to the complaint.

Ten concerned members of the social studies department collectively wrote a letter to the high school principal last May detailing troubling comments and threats made against members of the department. Sanossian would openly brag about her sex life, including the time she broke her rib during a specific romp, the complaint states. She also referred to male members of the department as “FILF”—“fathers I would like to f**k,” according to the letter included in the complaint. Her fondness for one male colleague prompted Sanossian to compare him to a “hot fudge chocolate Sunday that students want to eat,” the letter states.

Both men said on several occasions they explained their grievances to the school administration, including to the principal and assistant principal. Brennan’s first verbal complaint was made in 2010. Both men filed sexual harassment complaints, but corrective measures were never taken, according to the complaint.

“She created a very toxic environment,” said Daddino. “I had to do something. I couldn’t let this continue.”

Brennan agreed.

“That’s why we’re at this point,” added Brennan. “We have to do what’s right.”

Their attorney, Lenard Leeds, called the men “heroes” and said they’re trying to do what’s best for their colleagues and students. Leeds also suggested hypothetically that a similar complaint made by a female would perhaps attract a more aggressive response from the school district. Brennan, however, said they have not been shamed for speaking out and insisted that their colleagues have been supportive.

Leeds called for disciplinary actions against Sanossian, who recently stepped down as chair and now works as a teacher. Leeds said he would leave it to a jury to determine how much the men should be awarded.

“The district is aware of the allegations and is conducting an internal investigation,” Bill Heidenreich, Superintendent of Valley Stream Central High School District, said in a statement through a spokeswoman. “Due to matters of personnel, the district is not offering any further comment at this time.”

It was unclear if Sanossian had hired an attorney.

Cops: Man Killed in Ridge Crash

Suffolk County police are investigating the death of a man who died in an early morning crash in Ridge Saturday morning.

Police said the man was driving a sedan southbound on William Floyd Parkway at 6:23 a.m., when his car veered off the roadway and crashed into the woods. The victim was pronounced dead at the scene, police said.

The victim’s identity is being withheld pending notification of next of kin, police said.

The man’s car was impounded for a safety check, police said. The investigation is continuing.

Anyone with information on the crash is asked to call the Seventh Squad at 631-852-8752.

Woman, 64, Killed Walking to Car in Oyster Bay

A 64-year-old woman was killed Friday night when she was struck by a Jeep as she walked to her parked car in her hometown of Oyster Bay, Nassau County police said.

The woman was identified as Patricia White, police said.

White was walking to her car, which was parked on the east side of Pine Hollow Road, at 10:20 p.m. when she was struck by a 2014 Jeep heading south, police said. The driver was only identified as a 26-year-old woman.

White was transported to Nassau University Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead at 11:16 p.m., police said.

Police conducted a brake and safety check on the Jeep at the scene of the incident.

No criminality is suspected at this time, police said.

Man, 28, Found Dead in N. Amityville Pool

A 28-year-old Amityville man was found dead in a swimming pool at an apartment complex in North Amityville Tuesday afternoon, Suffolk County police said.

A resident of the apartment complex at 615 Broadway found Maurice Stone floating face down in the pool at approximately 12:45 p.m., police said.

Suffolk County police homicide detectives are investigating the drowning.

‘Aggressive’ 3-Foot-Long Crocodile Found in Cardboard Box

This three-foot-long crocodile was discovered in a box in Melville, officials said. (Suffolk SPCA)

A “very aggressive” three-foot-long crocodile was found inside a cardboard box left in the parking lot of a Melville office building Tuesday, officials said.

The unusual discovery was made at about 11 a.m. at 25 Melville Park Road following an anonymous call to the Town of Huntington Animal Shelter, according to Suffolk County SPCA Chief Roy Gross.

The worker who took the call was suspicious at first, Gross said, because hoaxes are not uncommon in their experience. But when the shelter employee went to investigate the box in the parking lot of the industrial area, it had a crocodile inside it.

Gross noted the crocodile was feisty, and difficult at first to corral. But the crocodile was safely captured and transported to the animal shelter before it was turned over to the Suffolk SPCA.

Since crocodiles and similar reptiles like alligators grow at a rate of one foot each year, Gross believes the fanged crocodile is 3 years old.

He speculated that its former owner had purchased the reptile when it was young but could not care for it as it grew older, and decided to abandon it. After several years as pets, crocodiles, like alligators, can become “very difficult to handle,” Gross noted.

The Suffolk SPCA chief has been vocal in recent months about the risks of owning dangerous reptiles. Long Island has seen a slew of alligators over the past two years. This year alone, the Suffolk SPCA has received at least four calls regarding the crocodilian species—which includes crocodiles, caimans, and alligators. This is the first crocodile discovery Gross can recall in years, he said.

Crocodiles and alligators are illegal to own in New York State.

Suffolk SPCA Chief Roy Gross holding an "aggressive" crocodile captured in Melville. Suffolk SPCA Chief Roy Gross holding “aggressive” crocodile found in Melville. (Photo credit: Suffolk SPCA)

The Suffolk County SPCA will be pursuing criminal charges, Gross said. If the person who left the reptile menace in Melville is identified and arrested, he or she could face charges of abandonment and endangering the public with a wild animal, which combined carry a penalty of one year in jail or a $1,000 fine. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation could also charge the person who abandoned the croc with possessing an illegal reptile, Gross said.

A joint investigation by the Suffolk SPCA and DEC police officers has been opened, Gross said.

The Suffolk SPCA is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever is responsible. Anyone with any information is asked to call the agency at 631-382-7722.

Gross said if the person responsible had called his organization instead of abandoning the reptile in the parking lot he’d consider it amnesty and would not be pressing charges.

“It’s unfortunate that people still get these animals illegally,” Gross lamented.

Mother And Child Kidnapped, Held In Captivity 5 Days, Cops Say

Malachi Blaylock (L) and his mother Yolanda V. Gilreath (R) allegedly kidnapped Blaylock's 11-month-old son and the child's mother, police said. (NCPD)

A mother and her 11-month-old son were held hostage for five days last week before they escaped a harrowing kidnapping in which the young mom was stabbed, whipped with an electrical cord, and threatened at gunpoint, Nassau County police said.

Their alleged kidnappers were identified as 20-year-old Malachi Blaylock, the child’s father, whom the woman has an order of protection against, and the tot’s grandmother, 51-year-old Yolanda Gilreath, police said. Both were charged with kidnapping, among other disturbing charges, and were arrested Monday night, one day after the victim had contacted Rockville Centre Village police.

The 20-year-old mother was hospitalized in Brooklyn on Saturday, police said. The child was unharmed during the “horrific” ordeal, said Nassau County police Insp. Kenneth Lack Tuesday at a press conference at police headquarters in Mineola.

Despite the order of protection against Blaylock, the woman traveled to Gilreath’s apartment on Old Mill Court in Rockville Centre at 1 p.m. on Monday, July 20, after being cajoled into visiting, Lack said. They were moved to an apartment in Hempstead on Wednesday, and escaped captivity two days later, police recounted.

“They were lured by the mother via text message that the grandmother wanted to see the grandchild,” Lack said.

Upon arriving, Blaylock allegedly grabbed the toddler out of his mother’s arms and ordered the woman into his bedroom.

After handing the child off to Gilreath, Blaylock allegedly pushed the mother of his child to the ground, yelled at her, and punched her in the face and body, police said.

The violence didn’t end there, police said.

“She was beaten repeatedly during the five days,” Lack said. “She was strangled. She had injuries all over her body—contusions, lacerations. She was beaten with an electrical cord; she was stabbed in the hand with scissors. It was a horrific experience.”

At one point Gilreath appeared to intervene, reacting to the woman’s screams by calling Blaylock’s sister. The sister, who was not identified, saw the woman’s condition and attempted to dial 911 but was stopped when Blaylock allegedly knocked the phone out of her hand, Lack said. That was the only attempt made by anyone on hand to alert the authorities.

Blaylock allegedly moved the woman and child to an apartment in Hempstead on Wednesday, July 22, for unknown reasons. As of Friday, the woman had tried to flee three times, police said, but later that evening she took advantage of Blaylock’s absence.

Blaylock had left the apartment at around 10 p.m., police said. The woman used a tablet to contact her mother, who traveled to the apartment and rescued her daughter and grandchild, police said.

She visited a hospital in Brooklyn on Saturday and contacted police the next day.

Lack was not aware of any missing person’s report filed in the woman’s name during the five days she was held captive.

As for a motive, Lack said investigators believe the grandmother and father were interested in seeing the toddler, and that “the father was jealous of the victim having possible other relationships.” He emphasized that the investigation into their motive is in the preliminary stages.

An order of protection was issued against Blaylock for an alleged assault earlier this year, Lack said. Blaylock’s criminal history is sealed. The grandmother appears to have no criminal record, Lack said.

Investigators have yet to determine whose name is listed on the apartment in Hempstead where the woman and child were held for three days. Police did not release an address.

Blaylock and Gilreath are both expected to be arraigned Tuesday at First District Court in Hempstead. Along with kidnapping, Blaylock was also charged with unlawful imprisonment, robbery, two counts of assault, strangulation, criminal contempt, and menacing. Gilreath was additionally charged with hindering prosecution, unlawful imprisonment, and endangering the welfare of a child.

Lack told reporters that Blaylock was being investigated for potential gang ties.