A man who has been stopped by Oklahoma City police officers five times since November and says he was placed in handcuffs twice — once at gunpoint — is suing the agency’s chief and involved officers for violating his civil rights.
Attorneys for Saadiq Long, an Oklahoman who is a U.S. Air Force veteran and converted Muslim, filed his case in federal court in Oklahoma City last week.
Long claims the stops were prompted by his apparent inclusion on a federal terrorism watch list his attorneys say is routinely distributed to law enforcement agencies across the country.
Long bases that claim on something an officer said to him during a Dec. 30 traffic stop he recorded on his cellphone. Video of the exchange was provided by the Oklahoma Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
“Whenever your tag is ran, it automatically alerts us that this vehicle is under suspicion for, right now, a terrorist watch list,” the officer tells Long, explaining why he was pulled over.
The lawsuit, filed by attorneys working for CAIR, states that stop was just one of nearly a half dozen Long recently experienced likely because his car’s license plate was read by automated tag readers the department uses to screen vehicles.
When contacted by The Oklahoman, police department spokesman Master Sgt. Gary Knight said the agency could not comment because of the pending litigation.
Traffic violations, stolen vehicle report also cited by officers as reasons for stops
Long’s petition details what he says happened during the five times Oklahoma City police have pulled him over since late November. He captured what happened during at least two of those stops on his cellphone.
- Nov. 23, 2022: According to the lawsuit, Long said he waited 45 minutes in his vehicle after being stopped for speeding. An Oklahoma City police officer asked for Long’s phone number and employment information before issuing him a ticket and telling him he was free to go.
- Dec. 19, 2022: In the lawsuit, Long says he was stopped by an officer who told him he had been pulled over for making an improper left turn. The officer, whom the petition states followed Long for a couple of miles before executing the stop, again asked him for a phone number and employment information before letting him go with a warning.
- Dec. 30, 2022: The lawsuit states Long was stopped by two officers as he entered an area highway and asked again for a phone number, which he refused to provide. After first being told he was stopped because officers had been alerted the vehicle was flagged for being associated with a known gang member, a second officer told him the vehicle was associated with a terrorist watchlist before allowing him to leave without citing him for any traffic violation.
- Jan. 4, 2023: According to the lawsuit, two Oklahoma City police officers stopped Long, told him he had stopped improperly at an intersection and asked for his phone number. When Long declined to provide his number, he was ordered out of the vehicle, handcuffed and placed in the back seat of a patrol unit for about 20 minutes before being released and allowed to return to his car, where an officer gave Long back his driver’s license, insurance information and a ticket.
- Jan. 12, 2023: The lawsuit states Long was pulled over by eight Oklahoma City police officers as he traveled down an area highway. Video Long captured with his phone shows he was ordered to exit his vehicle by what the lawsuit states were officers who had their weapons drawn at him. Long’s phone continued to record inside his vehicle as officers handcuffed and put him inside of a patrol unit. He was told then his vehicle had been reported stolen. The video shows four officers with weapons drawn approaching the vehicle before opening its doors to conduct a search. Just a few minutes later, Long was released by one of the officers, who told him he was free to leave the scene.
“These encounters — occurring on the sides of busy roads and at the hands of armed police officers — are dangerous. They are also unlawful,” Long’s petition states.
Attorneys characterize list as secret and racist
Long’s attorneys claim their client was stopped because his name is included on a Terrorism Screening Dataset put together by the FBI’s Terrorism Screening Center.
While the attorneys note in their filing that the federal government has publicly said an individual must be reasonably suspected of being a known or suspected terrorist based upon “articulable intelligence or information which … creates a reasonable suspicion” to be added to the list, they argue that’s not the case.
Instead, they say the FBI makes at least some of those selections by assessing someone’s race, ethnicity, country of origin, religion and religious practices, spoken languages, travel patterns, social media history and other activities U.S. citizens are free to enjoy under the First, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments and other parts of the Constitution.
“Individuals can be added to the federal terrorist watchlist without any information regarding whether or not an intended target exists and without any information about whether an individual is engaged in or plans to engage in criminal acts,” the petition states.
The attorneys say more than 1 million names have been added to the watchlist since 2009.
Long previously barred from flying
The petition states Long realized he was a suspected terrorist more than eight years ago when he learned he had been added to the government’s “No Fly List.”
The petition states federal authorities dropped Long from that list, however, after he filed a lawsuit in 2015.
The newly filed lawsuit asks for the court to find Oklahoma City Police Chief Wade Gourley and the department violated Long’s Fourth Amendment rights to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures five different times, to award him entitled and punitive damages, attorneys’ costs and fees and to issue a temporary and permanent injunctions to prevent his continued harassment.
A jury trial is demanded.
“Mr. Long is a law-abiding United States citizen. He has never been arrested, indicted, tried or convicted of a violent offense. He has no idea why he was placed on the No Fly List and the terrorist watchlist, and the federal government has never provided him with any explanation for its actions,” his petition states.