BY RISHA INAGANTI
Co-Managing News Editor
An hour after graduating from Newark High School with a 4.0 GPA, Mohammed Sanogo found himself thrown face-first onto the ground and arrested by university police.
The arrest, which took place June 15 at the Bob Carpenter Center after a Newark High School graduation ceremony, sparked calls for action pointed at the university. The effects are still being felt as the university faces backlash from both the Christina School District and the Newark community.
After receiving his diploma, Sanogo and many other graduates headed to the parking lot, where they took photos and said their goodbyes. While many groups began to leave, witnesses say Sanogo and a group of fellow Muslim students decided to stay back and pray while a group of university police officers watched nearby.
As Sanogo and his friends got in their cars and prepared to leave, another car began driving around in what officers called “reckless and dangerous behavior.”
According to Associate Vice President and Chief of Police, Patrick Ogden, this car began driving around the parking lot at a fast rate while an individual hung their upper body out the car window.
The above statement from Ogden contradicts the original arrest warrant, which stated that three cars, including Sanogo’s, were participating in the unsafe driving.
After the car was safely parked, officers approached the vehicle, telling them to leave, and they complied. Police then turned to Sanogo’s car, asking him to leave as well.
Video footage of the events was not released until July 27, six weeks after the arrest. While the university originally told members of the Christina school board that the footage was too grainy to publish, Ogden later shared that the Attorney General’s office advised against releasing the video.
In the video, Ogden narrates and provides comments regarding the incident. Badges from the video show the two officers who made the arrest were Lt. Anthony Battle (“Officer 1”) and Valerie Battles (“Officer 2”).
The footage showed that Sanogo’s car made a screeching noise while pulling out of his parking spot. Police viewed this as intentional and began to chase after him on foot.
“It’s an old rear-wheel-drive car,” Naveed Baqir, a Christina School District Board of Education member, said. “As cars get older, they just make noises. Nothing about it seemed intentional.”
The officers caught up to him at a street light, where Sanogo’s car was waiting, completely surrounded by Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) vehicles. Despite the light turning green, no DelDOT vehicles moved, which kept Sanogo’s car stuck where it was.
While many, including Baqir, view the actions of the DelDOT cars as purposeful, Ogden states that this was a pure coincidence.
UDPD requested Sanogo out of his car, and once he complied, he was picked up and slammed onto the ground as shown by many witness videos. Witnesses then heard shouts from Sanogo, who was yelling that he could not breathe and was having asthma issues.
“That’s a tactic police officers are taught,” Ogden said. “To use the takedown so that they can then make an effective arrest.”
The night ended with Sanogo getting arrested on charges of reckless driving and resisting arrest. He was later bailed out at 4 a.m. that night for $200.
Christina’s Board of Education was not made aware of the arrest until four days after it happened — an action that Baqir deemed both wrong and shocking.
“I was shocked when they told us,” Baqir said. “The university didn’t understand why we should be informed, which is insane to me because why wouldn’t we want to know about the state of our student during an event that we hosted?”
Sanogo was 18 at the time of the arrest. According to Ogden, once an individual is 18, there is no expectation or protocol for informing others.
“[The arrest] occurred an hour after the event happened … and there weren’t that many people there,” Ogden said when asked why the school district was not informed sooner. “I’m not sure if there was a school administrator left on the property. If there were, by the time everything got settled, they were probably gone at that point.”
On July 26, over a month after the arrest, Delaware’s Department of Justice dropped the charges against Sanogo.
“After meeting with Mr. Sanogo and his family, the State is satisfied that he understands
the role his actions played that night,” a letter to the Clerk of the Court from Daniel Logan, a state prosecutor, reads. “Prosecuting Mr. Sanogo would not advance the cause of Justice or public safety, and it is the State’s strong belief that a measured resolution is in the larger community’s best interest.”
Despite the dismissed charges, disagreement between Christina School District and the university remains. In spite of various meetings between the university and school district this summer, a lack of closure on the issue persists.
The school district is in talks about cutting ties with the university by moving their graduations elsewhere.
Many, such as Baqir, are still waiting for some form of visible action from the university. However, the university is not performing an internal investigation.
“It’s disheartening to see the university try to push this under the rug,” Baqir said. “I’m saying this not as an enemy but as a concerned friend. It really doesn’t look right for there to be a lack of public acknowledgement.”