PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – From the Pinellas County Jail, Abraham Quraishi told 8 On Your Side, he never meant to hurt anyone.
But St. Petersburg police aren’t so sure about that. They tackled him and arrested him on Wednesday night in front of police headquarters after one of the officers spotted him with a concealed weapon.
Once officers got him off the ground, they found the weapon and took him to jail. Quraishi is not disputing he had the loaded gun.
“I’m not denying that I had a concealed weapon,” said Quraishi. “But, I came there to protest peacefully.”
So, why bring a gun?
Quraishi explains, he stopped by the protest the night before, and when police started firing smoke bombs to disperse the crowd, he was hit with one of the projectiles. He claims he brought the projectile fragment back to show the other demonstrators.
“I held up the empty shell and I said, you all are peaceful protesters and this is what they are going to shoot you with,” said Quraishi, wearing his orange jail jumpsuit. “This is what they shoot peaceful protesters with.”
Quraishi then made the mistake that cost him his freedom. He threw the projectile piece down on the ground.
“So, it bounced off the ground and went throught the barrier,” said Quraishi. “Across the barrier towards who I believe was Chief Holloway. “
One of the majors who was standing near the chief saw Quraishi throw the object and when he raised his arm, she saw the weapon. They dispersed the crowd and took him into custody.
Quraishi claims, the night before, he saw protesters getting into physical fights and police nearby were not intervening, and he thought he could protect himself if he brought a weapon.
“I came out there with the intention of warning the crowd that was peacefully protesting. That was it,” said Quraishi. “Looking over my own back is the only reason I was ever armed.”
Chief Anthony Holloway says, even if Quraishi had no ill will, bringing a loaded gun to a peaceful protest is not wise. He says Quraishi seemed angry at that moment.
“When he threw that, he was getting very agitated,” said Holloway. “He was very agitated with what was going on.”
Quraishi is now facing charges for carrying a concealed weapon, inciting a riot and resisting arrest. He’s also facing a misdemeanor charge for unlawful assembly. His bond is set at $80,000.
He doesn’t believe he will be able to make bail, but from the jail has some advice for police officers.
“There is going to be frustration out there. That you are going to understand where people are coming from,” said Quraishi. “You can’t just jump the gun and make an example over and over and over. It’s not going to work.”
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