AURORA | Two Aurora police officers forced an Ethiopian man to leave a coffee shop for no reason and told him his “kind of business is not welcome here,” according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday by the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado.
Omar Hassan went into the Caribou Coffee in March 2016 after work to purchase a muffin, according to the lawsuit.
After he bought the muffin and sat down, two Aurora officers approached him and told him to leave, saying employees there wanted him out, the lawsuit said. But according to a sworn statement from a manager, no employees had a problem with Hassan or asked him to leave.
Hassan was not charged with a crime.
Mark Silverstein, legal director for the Colorado ACLU, said it’s unclear what reason if any, Aurora police had for making Hassan leave the coffee shop.
“We have been able to get remarkably few documents from Aurora,” he said.
In a statement released after the lawsuit was announced, police said they conducted an internal investigation into the incident.
“Based on the findings of our 2016 internal investigation, we strongly disagree with the allegations brought against our officers in regards to this incident,” the statement.
But police declined to release the findings of that report. They also won’t say why the officers told Hassan to leave the store.
Silverstein said some of the documents the ACLU received from APD mention a “suspicious person,” but the department won’t make it clear if police were looking for a suspicious person before they confronted Hassan, or if it refers to them making Hassan leave the coffee shop.
For his part, Hassan said he knows why the officers made him leave the coffee shop.
“I did nothing wrong that morning and was targeted because I was a black man wearing a hoodie,” he said in a statement from the ACLU announcing the lawsuit.
Silverstein said the incident is part of a disturbing trend.
“Aurora police officers have been named in incident after incident of mistreating young persons of color and violating their constitutional rights, and the department has repeatedly failed to hold its officers accountable,” he said in the statement. “Our client’s complaint to internal affairs produced zero results, and Aurora refuses to release any details. The department clearly needs effective anti-bias training and a truly independent citizen oversight body.”