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City Councilors Want Answers After Apparent 'Unlawful' Stop In West Roxbury

Two Boston City Councilors say they want answers from federal agencies after a Roslindale resident said he was stopped and detained by what he described as federal immigration officers Tuesday.

Bena Apreala, who is Black, said he was jogging on VFW Parkway in West Roxbury Tuesday afternoon when two SUVs with tinted windows approached, one blocking the sidewalk in front of him and the other pulling up next to him along the street.

Apreala said none of the men, all of whom were white, identified themselves as law enforcement but began questioning him about his identity.

“These guys just hopped out in full camouflage uniforms with masks over their face, and stopped me, and told me to immediately identify (myself)," he said. "I was confused as to whether or not they were even legitimate authority."

Apreala said the men never identified themselves, but he saw the word ICE on at least one of their badges. He said the officers asked him to show identification because he matched the description of an on-going investigation. He said they did not provide any further details.

“When I saw the badge and asked them if they were ICE officers, and they said yes, and I explained that I wasn’t an immigrant, I’m born and raised in Boston and that I have no idea what they’re stopping me for, they said that immigration isn’t the only thing that they investigate and proceeded to question me,” Apreala said.

The Boston ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations office declined to comment about the interaction. They did not confirm whether the men in question were, in fact, ICE officers.

A Boston police spokesman said the officers "are not members of BPD."

Apreala said he was not carrying identification while running but he did provide the men with his full name and address. He also informed them he is a U.S. citizen, born and raised in Boston.

“There was a number of families walking down the street, people who were not Black, and they singled me out to stop me,” Apreala said.

It wasn’t until he began recording the interaction that the officers allowed him to leave, according to Apreala, who said he plans to file a formal complaint with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Boston City Councilor Matt O’Malley represents West Roxbury, where the incident occurred. In a tweet, O’Malley called the stop “unlawful” and said he would address the issue with federal representatives. City Councilor Michelle Wu, who recently announced her bid for Mayor of Boston, said in a tweet she’d also follow up with federal representatives to investigate the matter further.

As Apreala was walking away, one of the men is heard on the video asking him whether he has tattoos on his arms, requesting that Apreala roll up his sleeves.

"Am I free to go?" Apreala asked. "Do I have to show you? If I’m free to go, then I’m not showing you anything."

This article was originally published on October 06, 2020.

Shannon Dooling Twitter Reporter
Shannon Dooling is an immigration reporter at WBUR, Boston’s NPR news station.

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