A viral video of police officers pointing their weapons at two Rowan University students and placing them in handcuffs after responding to a report of a gunman has sparked controversy.
On Monday shortly before 4:30 p.m., Glassboro Police officers were investigating a shoplifting incident at a store in the Collegetown Shopping Center on North Delsea Drive.
During the investigation, a man approached the officers and claimed he had spotted a heavy-set black male with "puffy hair" pointing a black handgun at a vehicle, police said. He told the officers the man then went into the driver's seat of a black Dodge Charger.
"Officer, you see that Charger right there? He just came out of the store with a gun in his hand," the man tells the officers in body cam footage released by police.
The footage shows the officers leaving the store and following the Charger.
Police say they stopped the Dodge Charger in the area of North Campus Drive in the parking lot of Mimosa Hall at Rowan University around 5 p.m.
Two Rowan University students, Altif Hassan, a senior from Trenton, New Jersey, and Giovanna Roberson, a freshman from Cherry Hill, New Jersey, were inside the vehicle at the time.
“Being that it was believed that one of the occupants of the vehicle had a gun, police followed procedures and drew their weapons until all the occupants exited the vehicle and were searched,” a spokesperson for Rowan University wrote to students.
A cellphone video of the incident shows at least three officers pointing their weapons at Hassan and Roberson.
"I thought it was over," Hassan told NBC10. "And they were about to shoot me in front of everybody on camera. Everybody was just gonna be replaying my death over and over again."
In the video, Hassan first steps out of the vehicle, raises his hands and walks backwards toward the police cruiser as the officers point their weapons at him. The officers then place him in handcuffs.
The officers then order Roberson to do the same and then place her in handcuffs as well.
"It was really traumatizing and frightening," Roberson said. "The whole time I was scared for Tif. I was watching him back up and scared for myself as well."
The officers searched both students as well as their vehicle but did not find a weapon. Police say they then informed the students why the action was taken and the incident was resolved without further incident.
"Officers have an obligation to investigate when this type of information is provided regarding a serious threat of an alleged armed subject in our community for the safety of all involved including the people that are subject of the investigation," Glassboro Police Chief Franklin S. Brown, Jr. wrote in a statement."
“I can’t keep quiet like my voice doesn’t matter,” Hassan wrote. “I’m pressing hard. If you believe in the cause, share it for the culture. Everyone gotta know this kind of harassment needs to stop.”
Hassan’s video went viral and sparked controversy online. Hassan told NBC10 he wants police to change their procedure in light of the incident.
"We just want to be treated equally," Hassan said. "Just equal. Nothing more. Nothing less."
Rowan University’s Student Government Association sent a message stating they were in contact with Hassan and Roberson as well as “relevant university administrators.” A town hall meeting in which students will address their concerns regarding the incident is scheduled to take place Friday at 11 a.m. at Rowan University’s student center.
Rowan University officials say they invited Glassboro Police officers to the event. Chief Brown told NBC10 he won't be at the event however he's offered to meet with Rowan University student leaders to discuss what happened.