Doctoral student Sattar Ali was trying to deposit a check for $151,000 at an Emprise Bank in Wichita, Kansas, after selling a home in Dearborn, Michigan. He and his family had returned to live in Wichita so that he could complete his studies toward a doctorate in mechanical engineering at Wichita State University, where his son is also a student.
Ali was at the bank on September 6 with his wife and 15-year-old daughter when police handcuffed him and took all three under arrest. He told local KAKE television news, “I was talking to them for less than five minutes and I found the police behind me, handcuffed me, confiscated everything and took me outside.” Ali said, “They didn’t say why or what happened or what did we do.”
According to Wichita police, officers had been called to the bank because Ali’s check was believed to be a forgery. A police statement said, “Officers on scene made attempts to verify the legitimacy of the check, and were unable to do so.” The statement said, “Wichita Police Detectives were utilized as part of the investigation due to their expertise and access to additional resources. The detectives, using the additional resources, were able to verify the legitimacy of the check.”
Despite having all the documents needed to verify the check, Ali said that police did not attempt to do so until after his arrest. “They jumped to conclusions,” he said, because the check was “presented by someone named Sattar Ali, not James or Robert,” he told The Sunflower newspaper.
Once police verified the check, Ali and his family were released. Disturbed by the arrest of his family, Ali said, “Let’s assume I made a mistake and gave them a bad check,” he said. “Why would they arrest my wife and daughter?” He theorized that he was the victim of racial profiling.
“The only reason I can think of is racial profiling. We have some discrimination issues,” he said. This was the first time he had experienced discrimination, he said.
Emprise Bank said its employees were following protocol. “If faced with the same circumstances today, we would expect our team to take the same actions,” it said in a statement.
For his part, Ali is lawyering up.
Wichita Police Chief Gordon Ramsay has reached out to Ali to apologize for the incident. “Even though WPD Officers followed policy, we feel bad for what happened in the course of the investigation,” said Ramsay. “When unfortunate situations such as this one arise, it creates an opportunity for dialogue between the police and the community. That dialogue can help us improve.” The officers’ actions, in this case, are documented through written reports, body worn camera video, bank surveillance video, and a 911 call, according to the department.
In response, Ali said, "We have the rights, we have the constitutional right, we have the freedom, we have a justice system, what happened to all of that? Where is innocent until proven guilty? Are we guilty just because of our look and our names until we're proven innocent later on?" His legal advisors at Muslim Advocates, a law firm based in California, has advised him not to talk with the media anymore.
The group, Muslim Advocates released the following statement on Ali’s behalf:
“Several days ago, the basic errand of depositing a check at the bank was turned into a humiliating and terrifying experience for the Ali family. Sattar Ali was handcuffed, and he, his wife, and teenage daughter were all arrested and treated like criminals even though none of them did anything wrong.
"The Ali family sincerely appreciates the words of apology and regret they have received from Emprise Bank and local law enforcement officials. They have not, however, been provided with any satisfactory explanation for why this incident occurred in the first place and what steps have been taken to ensure that it does not happen again.
The Ali family is currently considering all legal options as they continue to grapple with how such an ordinary day could turn into such a nightmare.”