Firefighters Who Sprayed Muslim Accused of Hate Crime

An Illinois man has filed suit in federal court claiming that firefighters sprayed him with water in an act of hate and discrimination.

Omar Ali, 30, who has been alternatively described in the media as an African-American Muslim and an Arab American, says white firefighters from the Tinley Park Fire Department intentionally sprayed water on him as he walked past their fire station on May 6, 2014.

Ali returned to the station about an hour after the incident with two others, and the trio began yelling insults at the firefighters. Police responded and dispersed the three under threat of arrest.

According to the lawsuit, three white male firefighters sprayed Ali who was merely walking past the fire station. Ali was wearing a turbin at the time, and claims the incident caused him “pain, fear, wetness, discomfort, humiliation and severe emotional distress.”

The suit, which was filed today, accuses the firefighters of discrimination and committing a hate crime. More on the story.

UPDATE: 6/3/14 The suit alleges violations of 42 USC 1981 and 1983. According to the complaint:

  • The Plaintiff, later that day, confronted these firefighters, and at least two firefighters admitted, on videotape, that they sprayed the Plaintiff with their powerful water hose.
  • One of the John Doe firefighters told the Plaintiff the firefighters “didn’t mean to” do it, he offered to apologize, and one of them indicated the firefighters were “just kidding.”
  • The spraying was neither an accident nor a joke, but a purposeful act that was directly related to the Plaintiff’s race and/or ethnicity.

Here is a copy of the complaint:  Ali v Tinley Park

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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