Tiburon police sergeant resigns following police encounter with Black store owner

Bay Area

TIRURON, Calif. (KRON) — Tiburon police sergeant Michael Blasi has resigned after video of the encounter between Tiburon police officers and a Black store owner raised concerns, according to the Tiburon Police Department.

Cell phone and body camera video captured the interaction that took place on Aug. 21 between police officers and the only black store owners in the town.

Two white Tiburon police officers showed up to the store, asking the Black store owners inside what they were doing there.

Working late, the owners of Yema say police parked out front of their clothing store in downtown Tiburon and eventually came to the front door.

“This street closes at 9 o’clock at night, there’s never anybody in here, this isn’t regular business hours,” one police officer said. “No customers in there, is this your store? That’s all I wanna know. You wanna know you want to know why. I want to know what you are doing in the store at 1 o’clock in the morning.”

The owners of Yema have lived in Tiburon for 10 years and opened the shop — an African-inspired athletic clothing company — in February.

“I think there’s a lot of people who know who we are and we have lived in this community for the last like almost 10 years so there are people who know we are here,” store owner Yema Khalif said.

The couple — and one of their friends — were emptying boxes, preparing for the weekend. The lights were on, no alarm was sounding, but they say the two police officers were argumentative from the start.

“Do you want us to look out for your community or do you want us to let anybody just walk in here at 2 o’clock in the morning and steal all your stuff? I want you to look out for my community,” the officer said. “Are you sure because you don’t sound like you’re very grateful you sound like you are very defensive.”

The confrontation continued until a white neighbor down the street shouted at police.

“That’s his store! That’s his store!” the neighbor said.

“Thank you very much that’s all I needed to know,” an officer said. “Thank you, see ya.”

Marin County protesters marched to the Tiburon Police Department last weekend in support of a Black business owner who says he was racially profiled in his own store.

During the protest — creator Yema Khalif spoke to a large crowd of supporters — using the motto behind his clothing brand “Yema” to send a message. 

“I live my life like a good, joyful, human!” said Khalif. “I am a good human, and I’ve been traumatized, I’ve been traumatized by the whole experience.” 

This story will be updated

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