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A ninth-grader in Texas with a talent for tinkering built an electronic clock and brought it to school earlier this week to show an engineering teacher. But instead of being impressed, the school in Irving accused Ahmed Mohamed of building a bomb and called the police, who sent him to juvenile hall in handcuffs, according to local news reports. His family and a local advocacy group worry that Mohamed was targeted for his race and Muslim faith.
The 14-year-old freshman told the newspaper that the clock, which featured a circuit board and power supply wired to a digital display, took him about 20 minutes to build on Sunday night. He’d also built radios, repaired his own go-kart and was part of the robotics club in middle school, and wanted to impress his new teachers at MacArthur High School.
But when Mohamed showed the gadget to a teacher on Monday morning, she advised him not to show it to anyone else. Another teacher said she thought it was a bomb after the clock’s alarm beeped in the middle of class, the Morning News said.
Later Monday afternoon, the school principal and a police officer pulled Mohamed out of class, leading him to a room where four officers questioned him about his invention.
“They were like, ‘So you tried to make a bomb?’” Mohamed told The Morning News.
He insisted that he had made a clock, but an officer told him, "It looks like a movie bomb to me," according to the newspaper.
He was handcuffed and escorted by police to a juvenile detention facility, where he was fingerprinted and then released without charge shortly thereafter. Police said that they would not seek any charges against him. A photo of Mohamed wearing a NASA T-shirt and a startled expression as he was led away by police has since rocketed across social media.
MacArthur High School also suspended Mohamed for three days. Ahmed told reporters that would be suspended from school until Thursday, and that he plans to transfer to a private school.
The White House said the teen was "failed" by his Texas teachers, and President Barack Obama tweeted that he would invite him to the White House. Press secretary Josh Earnest said he could attend an astronomy session with leading scientists next month as a way "to nurture that intellectual curiosity."
The case has piqued the interest of the Council for Islamic-American Relations (CAIR), which worries that Mohamed was targeted because of his race and religion.
“I think this wouldn’t even be a question if his name wasn't Ahmed Mohamed,” Alia Salem, with the Dallas chapter of CAIR, told WFAA. “He is an excited kid who is very bright and wants to share it with his teachers.”