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Charged with possessing his own gun, Purple Heart recipient suing NYPD for discrimination

Rocco Parascandola, New York Daily News on

Published in News & Features

NEW YORK — Purple Heart recipient Raffique Khan still can’t believe he was pulled over while driving his BMW in Brooklyn for no apparent reason — then arrested for carrying a legal gun.

Sadly, he says, he can only conclude he was charged because he’s Black.

Khan, 40, retired from the U.S. Army and now working as an armed federal environment protection specialist assigned to Fort Wadsworth on Staten Island, has filed a federal lawsuit alleging discrimination, wrongful arrest and a denial of his Second Amendment right to carry a firearm.

“There was no probable cause, to stop [Khan] other than he was a person of color operating an expensive late model vehicle…” said the suit, filed in Brooklyn Federal Court by his lawyer, Cory Morris, on May 21. A similar suit was filed by Morris June 14 in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn.

“To be honest, I’m disappointed,” Khan, a native of Trinidad and Tobago, told the Daily News in an interview. “I never thought I would serve and come home to be treated in this manner. I love my country. I wasn’t born here but what better way to pay your country than to serve. i did it honorably.

“I could understand if i was arguing or trying to fight, being belligerent — but it was nothing like that.”

The criminal complaint — filed after Officer Matthew Bessen, who Khan described as white, arrested Khan last Nov. 26 in East New York — clearly indicates that the NYPD’s own database indicates Khan has a license to carry a firearm. The complaint said Khan can only carry the weapon while at work, but Morris said Khan has no such restrictions on his license.

The case was dismissed in February, but Khan said the damage is done.

“Besides the embarrassment, I don’t want to run into this situation again,” Khan said. “I thought I was doing everything the correct way. I don’t want to sound like a saint or anything but I always felt you do the right thing, good things will happen to you.”

Khan got a Purple Heart and Bronze Star for rescuing fellow soldiers trapped in the wreckage caused by a suicide truck bomb that killed two Americans and badly injured some three dozen troops in Afghanistan in 2012.

Before the car stop, he was out with family for a gathering in honor of what have been his recently-deceased mother’s 70th birthday.

When it was over, he, a cousin and a friend got into Khan’s BMW — his license plate adorned with a Purple Heart — and reminisced some more and nibbled on a late-night snack.

Khan, a father of three, remembers seeing an unmarked car pass by and not thinking much of it. When he drove off, two cops in the same car pulled him over a few minutes later.


Khan said he was not told why he was stopped — and there is nothing in the complaint to indicate it, either.

But Kkan, noting his “great respect” for law enforcement, said he immediately told Bessen he was a licensed gun holder and that the weapon was in his glove compartment.

With that, Khan said he and his passengers were ordered out of the car, with Bessen reviewing Khan’s documents — including his carry permit and military identification — and questioning how he got them.

“Maybe he didn’t expect a minority to have credentials like that,” Khan said. “I did not say that to him, but I was saying that to myself. I wanted to still give him the respect he deserves but even though I’m asking him what is going on he didn’t explain anything to me at all.”

After about a half hour, Khan, his cousin and his friend were handcuffed and taken to the 75th Precinct, with Khan eventually charged and the other two let go.

Khan was released without bail — even though a prosecutor requested bail be set at $50,000 — after more than 35 hours in custody, according to the lawsuit, filed May 21 at Brooklyn Federal Court.

Khan was able to convince his superiors he was not AWOL. But he was forced to surrender his second weapon, for which he has a premise permit for his home in Queens, until the charges were dismissed.

Morris, said Khan’s arrest is a classic case of police pulling over a Black man for no reason and working under the presumption every gun is illegally owned.

There was not so much as a traffic stop alleged here,” Morris said in an interview. “The police are enforcing an unlawful policy based on unlawful racial stops and [making] an unlawful arrest simply based on firearm ownership.”

The NYPD said it does not comment on cases involving pending lawsuits. It refused to answer any questions about the stop.

Bessen, a five-year veteran, did not respond to a request for comment. Records show he has made 189 arrests and has been cited 13 times for good police work.

He was issued a command discipline in January for an incident in which he wrongfully questioned someone. And the Civilian Complaint Review Board has substantiated 8 of 38 allegations against him for his tactics in 13 incidents. Records show he received command disciplines — the loss of vacation days — for a number of the substantiated allegations.

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