Controversy has erupted at Winston-Salem State University, a North Carolina-based historically black college where a young student was arrested on Wednesday for alleged disorderly conduct.
Now-viral video footage of the arrest shows officers handcuffing student Leilla Hamoud as she complains that she’s not resisting arrest and airs her frustration at her teacher, Cynthia Villagomez.
***WARNING: Content is disturbing.
Taji shared this video she captured of the incident with me. She also described the moments that led up to the video/arrest. I reached out to a school spokesperson to get her response. She declined an interview.
Full report at 11pm. pic.twitter.com/MuiJF5TNjB
— Louie Tran (@louie_tran) December 16, 2022
“I’m not resisting. You’re hurting me really bad, bro, please get off of me,” the video begins with Hamoud telling the officers arresting her.
Villagomez can meanwhile be heard in the background, claiming she’d tried to de-escalate the situation.
“I was trying to de-escalate,” she says.
But Hamoud apparently disagrees.
“I hate you. I swear to God I hate you. You’re the worst teacher ever. You get me taken out in handcuffs because I won’t apologize? You started yelling at me. You tried to embarrass me about my paper. You’re a terrible teacher. She’s sitting here and saying she love black people and stuff. You yelled at me first,” the young student shrieks.
The video concludes with Hamoud being led from the classroom by two police officers.
Speaking with NBC News afterward, university spokesperson Haley Gingles said that the arrest came after a 10+ minute long confrontation between Hamoud and Villagomez, meaning that the police were called in as a last resort.
In addition, the police were reportedly not called in by Villagomez herself but rather by another teacher who’d heard the argument from another classroom.
I asked a spokesperson for WSSU on what led to the 20-year-old student’s arrest. pic.twitter.com/sspjvD9ylh
— Louie Tran (@louie_tran) December 15, 2022
As to the argument that led to Hamoud’s arrest, it reportedly began with Villagomez contacting Hamoud late Tuesday/early Wednesday and asking that she rewrite an essay prior to a scheduled presentation the following morning.
“The student says she declined to rewrite the essay at that late hour and insisted on going through with the presentation. After class was briefly delayed by a fire alarm, the student says, the professor asked her about the essay,” according to NBC News.
“At some point, the discussion became heated, says the student, who says she raised her voice after the professor raised hers. She was given two options: apologize or leave the classroom. The student says she chose to remain in class because the presentation was a large part of her grade,” NBC News reported.
In a statement to Louie Tan of station WXII, one student who witnessed the confrontation explained what happened once the cops arrived.
“An African-American cop comes in and asks Leilla what happened. Leilla told him the professor yelled at me, ‘I did yell at her back, but she disrespected me,'” the student said.
The officer then pulled Villagomez out of the room to speak with her privately. Soon after, a white cop then entered the picture.
“The white officer goes and tells Leilla she needs to be quiet. The professor then says that she wants an apology. Leilla asked the professor, are you going to give me an apology? The professor says no. So Leilla says then I’m not going to give you an apology. The white offer then tells her you either apologize, or you walk out in handcuffs,” the student recalled.
“The African-American officer should have done more. He saw how aggressive he (second officer) was being. He even told the white officer to calm down. But I just felt like he should have spoke up more because he knew the situation was not that serious when he came into the classroom,” the student added.
I talked with Taji, who says she was inside the classroom yesterday and saw the incident. She shared her thoughts with me on WSSU’s statement. She also described to me the events that led up to the 20-year-old student’s arrest.
I’ll have the full report tonight on WXII at 11 pm. pic.twitter.com/qzio2SqpzI
— Louie Tran (@louie_tran) December 15, 2022
Critics say that the situation should have never spiraled out of control and that it was wrong for the police to be called to handle it, especially given Hamoud’s race.
“In any classroom power struggle or dispute, there is not a single scenario in which a law enforcement officer should be called into a classroom. That goes for public schools, pre-K through 12, colleges and universities,” Erika Strauss Chavarria of Black Lives Matter at Schools told NBC News.
“The fact that this professor, who teaches at an HBCU and still doesn’t have the historical knowledge or background or common sense to not call a police officer on a student, is beyond me,” she added.
But in a statement, school officials said Hamoud’s arrest was not an example of “the weaponization of police.”
#NEW: Leaders of Winston-Salem State University released a statement following an incident involving police that happened inside Carolina Hall Wednesday morning. It reads in part:
— Louie Tran (@louie_tran) December 14, 2022
“We understand that the weaponization of police is a prevalent problem in our community; however, that is not what happened in this incident. We strive for a safe, inclusive, thriving, and intellectual community where all our faculty, staff, and students feel respected and supported,” the statement read.
“To that end, we will take swift and appropriate measures against any situation that contradicts those ideals,” the statement concluded. “We know this situation has caused a great deal of trauma to those involved and our campus community at large, but please know that every available resource is being extended to bring a resolution,” the statement continued.
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