The father of a Black student held at gunpoint by “institutionally racist” police feared his son could have been killed in the incident.
The force has been accused of racial profiling after two young Black men, who have asked not to be named, were rushed by armed officers in Toxeth, Liverpool, as the pair walked home from a mosque last Monday (27 June).
The father of one of the men said the family has made a formal complaint to Merseyside Police after officers stopped the young man and his friend because they “fit the physical description” of a suspect.
“I feel I could have lost my son,” he told The Independent. “I raise my son to contribute positively to society and to feel safe but now I don’t believe he is.
“I’m proud he complied with the police and acted calmly but you can imagine how frightened he is as a young lad, he’s never experienced these kinds of things before,” he added.
In the video, the shaken young men can be seen holding both hands up as the police guns remain pointed at them from close range.
More armed officers can be seen arriving on the scene in vehicles. In a subsequent clip one of the men can be seen being held in handcuffs as he is searched by armed officers who are telling him to “shut up.”
The pair were handcuffed minutes from their home following reports that someone was seen in the area carrying a handgun.
The community sought to intervene pleading the innocence of the two students, who police later released with no further action after no weapon was found on them.
The father condemned Merseyside Police’s response that the young men “matched the physical description” of the suspect.
“The answer that they fit the description?” he asked. “Everyone in the Toxeth area could fit the description. The description is it’s a Black guy, there are so many Black people in the area. What warrants them to stop these two young lads.”
The father said his son is a final year university student and wanted to get some fresh air after completing an assignment when the incident occurred.
His son is now so distressed by the situation he is urging his son to request emotional and mental health counselling. He added that the family were not contacted after the incident to explain what happened or offer any support.
“We have to learn something from this. It’s happened before, it’s happened now and it could happen again. If those two young people didn’t act calmy, what would the action of the police be? They could have been killed,” the father added.
Kim Johnson MP for Liverpool Riverside which covers the area of the incident condemned the police action against the two young men.
“I absolutely condemn the police action here, and am not happy with the response I have received that this response was proportionate or necessary. I will be pursuing this with Chief Constable Serena Kennedy,” Ms Johnson said.
She added that the incident resembled something from the streets of America and not Liverpool and accused the force of harassing the young men for being Black and leaving them traumatised as a result. She called for a stop of racial profiling and scapegoating in the force which she labelled institutionally racist.
Granby Somali Women’s Group, which has been supporting the families and community impacted said people are outraged by what’s happened.
“You have to look at the impact on those young boys, they might not have had any feelings toward the police because they may not have had any contact but now there’ll be mistrust, they’ll be scared, it builds that mistrust,” Amina Elmi of Granby Somali Women’s Group told The Independent.
“I’ve spoken to a lot of people in the community and they said it’s a regular occurrence for the police to turn up in the area and ask for ID, not telling them what the situation is, handcuffing them, putting them in police cars. This is happening a lot.
“It’s like we’re going back to the 1980s when we had all the issues and the 1981 riots in the community.”
Ms Elmi added that a particular point of upset among the community was how the police conducted themselves telling onlookers that their phones would be confiscated and putting a taser to the back of one of the young men.
A Merseyside Police spokesperson said: “We can confirm Merseyside Police’s Professional Standards Department has received a formal complaint relating to the stop search of two men on Monday night (27 June).
“We are liaising with the complainant and will update them on the progress of the investigation into their complaint.
“It would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.”
In an original statement Superintendent Diane Pownall, said the search “was justified and appropriate.”
“As with any reports of somebody being armed with a firearm, Armed Response Officers were authorised and deployed to the area. They saw two men on nearby Mulgrave Street, one of whom matched the physical description of the person and was wearing clothing that matched the clothing described,” she said.
Ms Pownall added that the force has also been in contact with Ms Johnson to raise explain the approach the officers took and listen to their concerns.