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LAS VEGAS - Henderson Police are investigating some of their own officers regarding a complaint filed by a group of Muslim men who stopped to pray in a parking lot.
The incident happened in December. The Muslim men were passing through Las Vegas on a road trip. They stopped at a convenience store parking lot in Henderson to perform their sunset prayer. According to documents obtained by 8 News NOW, a concerned citizen called the police, saying seven Middle Eastern males were acting suspiciously by a gray minivan with California license plates. The caller reported several of the men were kissing the ground.
"We don't (have) you at gunpoint," one of the officers said. "We're not going to throw you down on the ground or handcuff you right now. We just want to make sure that you guys are good people."
"We are praying," one of the men replied. "You know, this is a Muslim prayer. Is that enough for you to say that this is suspicious activity?"
"Well, that's why I'm checking it out," the officer replied.
"Do you think it is," the Muslim man asked.
"I think there's somebody out there that called us and said, ‘Hey check this out,'" the officer said. "Did I see you guys praying? No. Do I know what you were saying? I don't know if you guys repeat the same thing, or if you're actually over there saying, 'I hope that I kill a police officer today.' I don't know that you're not saying that."
After almost 45 minutes, the Muslim men were on their way. They were not arrested or cited. They are now vowing to fight what they consider an unlawful stop.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, has filed a formal complaint with the Henderson Police Department.
"What the men really want to see is change within the police department and (a change in) law enforcement attitude toward people engaged in religious activity," CAIR Los Angeles Chapter staff attorney Ameena Qazi said. The Muslim travelers also want compensation for damages and emotional distress.
Nevada ACLU attorney Allen Lichtenstein questioned the officers' rationale. "Profiling can become a problem," Lichtenstein said. "Is this one of those cases? I don't know… I would be anxious to see what justification the officers had for keeping them as long as they did."
Henderson Police would not go on camera for an interview, but a spokesman says internal affairs officers are investigating.