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Civil rights group files complaint against Medford police, alleging illegal traffic stop of two Black residents

A civil rights group filed an internal complaint Monday against the Medford Police Department on behalf of two Black residents whom the organization says were unlawfully stopped and detained at gunpoint by officers on a public street last July based on a “vague anonymous tip” about a firearm in their car.

No gun was recovered, according to a statement from Boston-based Lawyers for Civil Rights, which filed a complaint on behalf of Medford residents Jeremiah Mamousette and Hibaq Warsame, both college students. They were 19-year-old recent Medford High graduates when they were stopped in a car on the afternoon of July 8, the complaint says.

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Mamousette and Warsame were driving through the Winthrop Street rotary when they noticed several police cruisers, according to the statement. One cruiser pulled immediately behind them, and the officer activated blue lights, ordering the pair out of the vehicle over a loudspeaker.

Police began to unlawfully search Mamousette and Warsame and restrain them with handcuffs, without providing an explanation for the stop, the statement said.

The legal group said multiple officers remained nearby with their guns trained on Mamousette and Warsame during the entire interaction. The officers found nothing concerning in the vehicle and “eventually shared that they had stopped the two because of a vague anonymous tip regarding a gun” the statement said.

Lawyers for Civil Rights said that rather than apologize to Mamousetts and Warsame, the officers described the interaction as “standard” protocol.

A request for comment on the group’s account and for the Medford police incident report on the traffic stop were sent to Chief Jack D. Buckley on Monday morning. A voicemail seeking comment was left with a Medford police spokesman. They did not respond.

Warsame said the incident was a source of public humiliation.

“I just remember standing on that public rotary with my face in the sun as each person drove by and seemed to stare,” Warsame said in the statement. “I begged the officer to let me cover my face and explained that I graduated from Medford High School and am a good kid, but my pleas fell on deaf ears.”

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Mamousette said that in that moment he feared for his life.

“We were unlawfully stopped, handcuffed, and searched at gunpoint not long after the police killings of George Floyd, Daunte Wright, and 13-year-old Adam Toledo,” Mamousette said. “All I could think during this entire traumatic encounter was that we would be the next names on the list of victims.”

The complaint filed with Medford police seeks an apology to Mamousette and Warsame, an “immediate and thorough independent investigation” of the traffic stop, unspecified compensation for the “physical and emotional harm suffered” by the pair, confirmation of steps the Police Department is taking to ensure “this type of incident” won’t occur again, and attorneys’ fees.

According to the statement, the civil rights group is ready to take “further legal action” if “the internal complaint is not resolved amicably and expeditiously.”


Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.