'I am incensed!' Tiburon community holds meeting after Black business owner says he was racially profiled by police

ByJR Stone KGO logo
Friday, August 28, 2020
Wife reacts after Black business owner questioned by Tiburon police
Thursday the City of Tiburon and City of Belvedere held a joint virtual community meeting about an incident where officers questioned a Black business owner, who was working late in his store last week.

TIBURON, Calif. (KGO) -- On Thursday night, a four-hour, heated virtual community meeting took place over an incident that happened in the small North Bay city of Tiburon, California.

A Black business owner believes he was racially profiled by police as he was filling inventory inside his store last Friday at 1 a.m.

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Two videos show an officer saying, "This street closes at 9 o'clock at night and there's never anybody in here. This isn't regular business hours, there's no customers in there. Is it your store? That's all we want to know. I want to know what you're doing in the store at 1 o'clock in the morning."

"When I feel harassed and I feel targeted, I say it, and I say it as I see it, and that's what that was," says business owner Yema Khalif, who was with his wife and another person inside his business when he was approached by officers.

On Thursday, the city of Tiburon and city of Belvedere held a joint virtual community meeting with all sides reacting to the incident.

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"There was nothing suspicious about their activity," says one person. Another said, "I am incensed!"

Others responded with different views, saying that officers were just doing their job. "I didn't see anything racist that the policemen said to those fine people."

The community meeting comes after the city released body cam video showing the back and forth between both sides. In it, you can hear officers questioning Khalif multiple times: "Do one of you own the store?"

Khalif didn't answer the question, saying what people didn't see in the body cam video are the officers who had circled the business multiple times beforehand and had been watching them.

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He doesn't believe that would have happened if he was white. "My pictures are plastered all over the store, huge pictures," says Khalif.

It was a nearby business owner who yelled to officers that Khalif owned the business, which diffused the situation. Yema's wife says the officer had his hand on his gun.

"Had that white neighbor not said anything that night, maybe Yema wouldn't be here with us today... and I would let that sink in for a minute," says Hawi Awash.

Tiburon officials say an independent investigation is now underway, which is the reason why officers were not at Thursday's meeting.

The newly-released bodycam video can be seen here.