Irving teen headed to White House with clock that got him suspended

A MacArthur High School freshman who was arrested this week after a digital clock he made at home was mistaken for a bomb will be taking his creation to the White House.

Ahmed Mohamed, 14, announced at a news conference Wednesday afternoon that he has accepted President Barack Obama’s invitation to visit, a gesture that was extended after the story of Mohamed’s arrest Monday gained national attention.

He was also contacted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and tweeted at by Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. On Thursday morning, Mohamed appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America, where he spoke about being a fan of Cuban’s TV show, Shark Tank, and said he was most excited about the MIT attention.

“I feel excited to fight back for others who can’t fight,” Mohamed told the Star-Telegram Wednesday.

Mohamed, a tinkerer who enjoyed his middle school robotics class, took a hastily patched-together digital clock to MacArthur to show off to his new teachers.

His English teacher wasn’t happy when the alarm went off in class.

After class, he stopped to show her the device — a circuit board and power supply wired to a digital display.

“She was like, ‘It looks like a bomb,’ ” he said.

“I told her, ‘It doesn’t look like a bomb to me.’ 

She kept the device, and during the next period, the school principal and a police officer pulled Mohamed out of class.

“He showed it to a teacher, and it was suspicious in nature,” Irving Police Chief Larry Boyd said. “The student told the teacher it was a clock, but he was not forthcoming with any other details about it.”

Mohamed said he was questioned without a lawyer or a relative present. He said he repeatedly said the device was a clock.

About 3 p.m., he was arrested and led from the school in handcuffs. He was quickly released to his parents.

He was also suspended for three days.

Irving police announced Wednesday that they will not pursue the case against Mohamed.

But still, the arrest concerns the family, the Muslim community and the American Civil Liberties Union.

‘A dynamic situation’

Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne has became a national celebrity in anti-Islamic circles, making speeches about how Muslims are plotting to usurp American laws.

Terri Burke, executive director of the ACLU of Texas, said in a statement: “Ahmed Mohamed’s avoidable ordeal raises serious concerns about racial profiling and the disciplinary system in Texas schools. Instead of encouraging his curiosity, intellect and ability, the Irving ISD saw fit to throw handcuffs on a frightened 14-year-old Muslim boy wearing a NASA T-shirt and then remove him from school.”

Alia Salem, who directs the North Texas chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said she has spoken to lawyers.

“It really has galvanized the community,” she told the Star-Telegram on Wednesday morning. “Everybody knows that if his name wasn’t Ahmed Mohamed, then we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. It’s infuriating people.”

Ahmed has an attorney, Linda Moreno of the Constitutional Law Center for Muslims in America. Moreno attended the news conference with the boy’s family in front of his house Wednesday afternoon.

She said no lawsuits had been filed.

“He’s just a bright 14-year-old American-Muslim kid, and all he did was a science project for his school. He made an alarm clock to impress his teachers, and what happened? He certainly didn’t expect to be detained, interrogated, handcuffed, booked, fingerprinted and arrested at the end of the school day,” Moreno said.

“This is a dynamic situation going forward,” she said.

‘That is America’

The freshman’s father, Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed, said the family has lived in Irving for 30 years. The family immigrated from Sudan, and Elhassan occasionally returns there to run for president, The Dallas Morning News reported.

“What can I say? I’m grateful to the United States of America. You are here six hours, maybe eight hours, some of you since yesterday,” he said to reporters on his lawn Wednesday. “Because what? Because what happened is touching the heart for everybody that has children, and that is America.”

Elhassan said Ahmed, one of six kids, fixes his car, the electricity, the TV and anything else that needs repairing around the house.

“Thank you to everyone on Twitter, especially President Obama and Hillary Clinton,” Elhassan said.

Boyd, the police chief, said ethnicity and religion played no role in the arrest.

Boyd met with some of the boy’s relatives and Islamic city leaders Wednesday night at the Islamic Center of Irving. Reporters were not allowed in.

Irving school district spokeswoman Lesley Weaver said officials could not discuss specifics until the family granted them permission.

“We always ask our students and staff to immediately report if they observe any suspicious items/and or suspicious behavior,” Weaver said during a morning news conference with Boyd. “If something is out of the ordinary, the information should be reported immediately to a school administrator and/or the police so it can be addressed right away.”

At one point Wednesday night, “Ahmed Mohamed” was a trending topic on Twitter in the United States and No. 2 worldwide. Ahmed’s own Twitter account had gained more than 50,000 followers by Wednesday night.

Mohamed said he is thinking about transferring from MacArthur.

“Since the charges have been dropped, I would have to say that I want to go to MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology] and TAMS [Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science],” Mohamed said.

Staff writer Ryan Osborne contributed to this report.

Monica S. Nagy: 817-390-7792, @MonicaNagyFWST

Domingo Ramirez Jr.: 817-390-7763, @mingoramirezjr

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