California Police Filmed Questioning Black Business Owner Inside His Own Store

Police officers in a California town have been accused of racial profiling after confronting a Black business owner who was inside his own store late at night.

Yema Khalif and his wife and business partner Hawi Awash were filmed asking why three Tiburon Police officers were questioning them inside their clothing store at 1 a.m. on August 21.

In a post on Instagram, Khalif said he, Awash and a friend of theirs were unloading new inventory for their store Yema—which he described as the only Black-owned clothing store in Tiburon—when the officers arrived.

"I expressed to him that there was no crime going on and we were going about our business," Khalif wrote. "Then he insisted that he wanted us to prove who we are and to explain what we were doing at the store that late. I, kindly, explained that we didn't have to prove anything and asked for a supervisor."

Khalif said it then became clear that the officer had already called for back-up. The clip begins with Khalif speaking to the supervisor while standing at his front door.

"There's three Black people in the store, what's the problem?" Khalif asks the officers.

The supervisor said that they are at the property because the street in question closes at 9 p.m. and they are wondering "what you're doing in a store at 1 o'clock in the morning?"

"Aren't you glad we're looking after your store?" the officer asks. "Then you should be grateful we're as diligent as we are looking out for the street, that's all we do."

Khalif tells the officer that he does not have to identify himself as he is the owner of the store. He then claims that he doesn't have to prove he is the owner, which the officer disputes.

The pair then continue to argue about why the police have turned up at the store, with Awash explaining off-camera that an alarm has not gone off all night.

The supervisor then asks Khalif to show that his key fits into the door to prove he is the owner. Before he does that, the officers appear to speak to someone further down the street and then walk away.

"It took a white man across the street—who did not come down to show his identification and prove who he was—to de-escalate the situation and make it go away," Khalif told CBS San Francisco. "So that tells you something."

"I wasn't angry," Khalif added. "I was just putting my foot down that, hey, if this was some other person of a different color, you would not be acting this way and you would not be here at this particular hour."

Awash said the situation became frightening for her.

"One of the police officers had his hand on his gun, which was the most terrifying part for me," she added.

View this post on Instagram

Last night we had a not so good exchange with Tiburon police at our place of work. YEMA is the only black owned clothing store in Tiburon, California so many people in our community know who we are. Some days we have to work late. Yesterday was one of those days. We received new inventory during the day so we went back to our store, on Main street Tiburon California, to work late. One of our business friend was visiting us from washing DC so he came with us. This is around 1AM. FYI, a popular restaurant close to us was still open and I could see their employees working late. We are inside the store minding our business, All store lights are on and you can see us from outside because we have high windows all around the store. Our store alarm did not go off, no one called the police, everything was peaceful. Then we see Tiburon police car patrolling. We saw him drive around the block like 3 times. At one point he stopped across our store for a good minute. Then finally, the cop decided to come knock on our store door. FYI, we didn’t realize that when he was circling the block he was calling for back up. I opened the door for him then he proceeded to tell me his purpose for knocking on our door was to check what we were doing at the store that late. And he wanted us to prove who we are. His tone not very like-able. I expressed to him that there was no crime going on and we were going about our business. Then he insisted that he wanted us to prove who we are and to explain what we were doing at the store that late. I, kindly, explained that we didn’t have to prove anything and asked for a supervisor. That’s when we knew he had already called for back up. Supervisor and another cop - who had his hand on his gun, by the way, showed up almost immediately. The supervisor came charged and did not come to deescalate anything. The situation started getting out of hand so our friend from DC started recording the exchange (Video below). @shaunking @beyonce @chakabars @lauraharrier @buzzfeed @nowthisnews @aljazeeraenglish @cnn @bbcnews @latimes @nytimes @wsj @ava @shondarhimes @kuz @kingjames @oprah @voguemagazine @essence @adutakech @tiffanyhaddish

A post shared by YEMAâ„¢ (@yemacalif) on

Tiburon Mayor Alice Fredericks apologized for the incident in a statement.

"Whatever the intention of the responding officers, the interchange inappropriately deteriorated from helpful to confrontational," Fredericks said.

"Tiburon Police Officers are trained and held to the highest standards of conduct. A key component of that training is the expectation our officers will utilize de-escalation techniques in situations like these. It is clear that did not occur in this instance."

Tiburon Police has been contacted for comment.

(File photo) Clothing shop closed due to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic on March 30, 2020 in New York City. A married couple in Tiburon have accused police of racially profiling them inside their own clothing store. Bill Tompkins/Getty