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Islamic group wants investigation into bank incident

Sattar, Hassan, Ali, Hawra and Hadil Ali. Wichita police detained Sattar, Hawra and Hadil Ali last week after Sattar Ali tried to deposit a $151,000 check at a local Emprise Bank branch.
Sattar, Hassan, Ali, Hawra and Hadil Ali. Wichita police detained Sattar, Hawra and Hadil Ali last week after Sattar Ali tried to deposit a $151,000 check at a local Emprise Bank branch.

A national Islamic-American advocacy group is calling for an independent investigation into a Wichita incident where an Iraqi-American and his family were detained when he tried to deposit a check at a bank.

Moussa Elbayoumy, chairman of the Kansas chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said his group isn’t satisfied with the explanations from either Emprise Bank or the Wichita Police Department.

The bank has said the check raised suspicion and police have said they were following standard procedures when they detained bank customer Sattar Ali. They later determined the check Ali tried to deposit was valid.

In the Sept. 6 incident, Ali was handcuffed at the bank and taken downtown by police for questioning. His wife and 15-year-old daughter, who were waiting for him in the car, were also detained.

CAIR wants an outside investigation to determine exactly what bank and police policies are and whether they were actually followed when the family was detained, Elbayoumy said.

Something is not right, either in the policies and procedures or with the way it was implemented.

Moussa Elbayoumy, Kansas chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations

“Something is not right, either in the policies and procedures or with the way it was implemented,” he said. “If someone did not properly apply the policy, they need to be held accountable.

“If the policy the way it is led to this disaster, then obviously the policy needs to be changed.”

The national CAIR organization is supporting the Kansas chapter’s call for an investigation, said spokesman Ibrahim Hooper.

Elbayoumy, a resident of Lawrence, said the 911 call from the bank to police indicated that Ali was profiled and suspected of being dangerous because of his middle eastern heritage and apparently Islamic name.

The employee who made the call to police volunteered at the time that she thought Ali was Pakistani. She also replied “no, not yet” when asked if there were any injuries to report, although she characterized his demeanor as friendly rather than threatening.

Audio of 911 call from Emprise Bank after Sattar Ali tried to deposit a check Sept. 6, 2017. Ali was handcuffed and questioned by police when Emprise Bank couldn’t verify the legitimacy of the check.

Asked if Ali was alone, the employee responded: “Yes. But that doesn’t mean that somebody isn’t outside.”

Teri Ginther, chief operating officer for Emprise, said last week that the bank doesn’t tolerate discrimination. A statement issued by the company said the tellers called police because of problems confirming the routing numbers and security features of the check.

Elbayoumy said another indicator of prejudice was the four-car police response to the bank’s call, including two Wichita units and one each from the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office and the Kansas Highway Patrol.

“Is that really a normal response for a call about a fake check?” he said.

Police Chief Gordon Ramsay said last week that even though officers followed policy, he feels bad about what happened in the investigation and sees it as an opportunity for increased community dialogue on how to improve.

Ali is a mechanical engineer and a former resident of Wichita, moving back to the city to work on completing his doctorate.

The check he sought to deposit was for $151,000, the proceeds from selling his home in Dearborn, Mich.

Dion Lefler: 316-268-6527, @DionKansas

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