‘Can’t be Black and Have a Firearm’: Purple Heart Veteran Arrested By NYPD for Possession of His Own Gun Despite Having Valid Concealed Weapon Permit Issued By the Same Police Department

In another apparent case of “Driving while Black,” a highly decorated Black U.S. Army veteran with a concealed weapons permit was pulled over for unspecified reasons by the NYPD and arrested for possession of his own gun, spending more than 24 hours in jail before he was informed of the charges against him.

Even though the concealed weapons permit had been issued to him by the New York City Police Department, which could have been quickly confirmed in its database, it still took prosecutors another three months before dismissing the charges against the 40-year-old veteran.

But even after the charges were dismissed, the NYPD still refused to return his firearm on the basis that the case was still under “investigation.”

'Can’t be Black and Have a Firearm': Purple Heart Veteran Arrested By NYPD for Possession of His Own Gun Despite Having Valid Concealed Weapon Permit Issued By the Same Police Department
Raffique Khan was allegedly racially profiled by the New York Police Department. (Photo: Facebook/Raffique Khan)

Now Raffique Khan is suing the NYPD for racial profiling, malicious prosecution, false arrest and imprisonment, conspiracy and violating his Second Amendment right to bear arms, according to the lawsuit obtained by Atlanta Black Star.

Khan, in fact, is employed as an armed federal environment protection specialist for the Department of Interior assigned to Fort Wadsworth, a former military base on Staten Island that the National Park Service is now using.

Prior to accepting that job, he had applied for the NYPD and had even passed the entrance examination.

“I was supposed to be an NYPD officer. That’s how much faith I have in the system,” Khan said in a telephone interview with the Atlanta Black Star. 

“The only thing I wanted to do is protect those who cannot protect themselves.”

Meanwhile, the main cop who arrested him, Matthew S. Bessen, has had 36 complaints filed against him over the past five years since joining the NYPD, mostly from Black people who have accused him of excessive force, improper use of body camera, failure to identify himself and discourtesy.

Only eight of those complaints have been substantiated, which is significant considering how many complaints against police are determined by internal affairs to be unsubstantiated.

Bessen is also listed as a defendant in two prior lawsuits that remain pending.

“If that officer was in the military, he would have already been discharged for dishonorable conduct,” Khan said. 

The Arrest

Khan’s arrest took place on Sunday, Nov. 26, 2023, after attending a small family gathering to commemorate the birthday of his mother, who had recently passed away.

At some point after midnight, Khan, his cousin, and a friend stepped out of the home and into his 2022 BMW Series 3, which had Purple Heart license plates on the front and back of the car, to converse and catch up since they had not seen each other in a while.

At around 3:15 a.m., the men noticed an unmarked police car drive by slowly before driving away. The men sat in the car for a while longer, conversing before Khan drove off with them toward his home in St. Albans, Queens. He was eventually pulled over by the same unmarked police car they had spotted earlier.

The cops who pulled him over were not in uniform nor did they identify themselves, according to the lawsuit, but the main cop doing the talking was later identified as Bessen.

As soon as he saw the lights behind him, Khan removed the gun from his holster and placed it in the glove compartment, then placed his hands on the steering wheel.

“I respect law enforcement, so I did that for his safety and my safety,” Khan said, adding that in the past, police would check out his credentials and send him on his way.

But Bessen ordered the men out of the car and began searching it without consent or probable cause, the lawsuit states. The cops searched the car for 30 minutes before handcuffing the men and transporting them to jail.

The three men were transported to the 75th Precinct in separate cars, but his cousin and friend were released after four hours, while he ended up spending more than 34 hours locked up, a period during which the single father of three teenagers was not allowed to call his children or employer to let them know his whereabouts. 

It was not until he was standing before the judge Monday morning that Khan was informed that he was being charged with two degrees of criminal possession of a weapon, criminal possession of a firearm and possession of pistol ammunition. He was also ordered to turn in another firearm he owned.

But even after prosecutors chose to dismiss the case in February, the NYPD refused to return his guns, according to an email exchange with NYPD officer Joseph Astarita, who is also listed in the lawsuit and who stated the following on March 14:

“Maybe you are not aware of the process regarding your incident. While I have received your recently delivered documents, that does not mean you get your firearms back right away. Your incident is in investigation. When I finish my investigation, it will then be sent to numerous supervisors who will then make a determination. At that time, you will be notified by mail and directed to call for a release and license, if your license is continued. In the meantime, be patient as I hope to have your case completed by midweek next week and then sent on to the supervisors.”

It was only after Khan retained an attorney and filed a lawsuit that the NYPD returned his guns more than a month later.

“You have a police force that says you can’t be Black and have a firearm in New York City, acting as if it probable cause for arrest,” said Khan’s attorney, Cory H. Morris.

“But there was never probable cause to stop him, much less to search him.”

Military Honors

Born in Trinidad-Tobago, Khan became a U.S. citizen after joining the military in July 2008, earning his Purple Heart and Bronze Star medals while fighting in Afghanistan in 2012.

According to military documents included in the lawsuit as exhibits:

A Sergeant at the time, SGT Khan distinguished himself during the 1 June 2012 insurgent attack against the FOB. After a Suicide Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device destroyed the DFAC where he and his team were eating, SGT Khan extracted trapped personnel from the wreckage and initiated first aid on the wounded. He engaged advancing insurgents with M16 fire, and continued to provide security at an impromptu casualty collection point until the attack was defeated and the casualties evacuated. For his heroic actions, SGT Khan was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for Valor and the Combat Action Badge, and also received the Purple Heart for his injuries.

Khan retired from the army in 2015 due to the disabilities he received during the 2012 incident. He was eventually hired by the federal government, where he went through a rigorous background check to be allowed to carry a concealed weapon on the job.

But Bessen refused to believe his military credentials and concealed weapons permit were real.

“How did you get these?” Bessen asked Khan when examining his concealed weapon permit and retired military identification card.

“For him to tell me that was like him telling me I have no integrity,” said Khan. “But I fought for my country. I bled for my country. I did everything I was supposed to do and here he was bending my card, asking me where I got it. I really wanted to curse him out, but I remained respectful.”

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