This just in

On Yale & Yale alumni.
Ico comments 4 comments | Ico print Print | Ico email Email | Facebook | | RSS

NYT columnist ‘fuming’ after Yale cops stop his son at gunpoint

New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow is “fuming” after Yale police held his son, a Yale junior, at gunpoint Saturday afternoon while searching for a burglary suspect.

In a series of tweets and then a column published Monday morning, Blow—who writes frequently about racial profiling—relayed the story he heard from his son, biology major Tahj Blow ’16.

His son “was just accosted - at GUN POINT - by a Yale policeman bc he ‘fit the description’ of a suspect,” Blow wrote in his initial Twitter post, which has been retweeted more than 5,300 times. His next tweet read: “He was let go when they realized he was a college student and not a criminal ( he was leaving the library!) He's shaken, but I'm fuming!”

In his column this morning, Blow added details. The officer, who was behind Tahj, told him to turn around, he writes. Then, in Tahj’s words, “The officer raised his gun at me, and told me to get on the ground.” He complied with all the orders, Blow says.

Eventually the police told the younger Blow that students had called about a burglary suspect who matched his description. He returned to his room, “shaken up.”

“Don’t get me wrong,” Charles Blow continues: “If indeed my son matched the description of a suspect, I would have had no problem with him being questioned appropriately. [But] why was a gun drawn first? . . . What if my son had panicked under the stress, having never had a gun pointed at him before, and made what the officer considered a ‘suspicious’ movement? Had I come close to losing him?”

A Yale spokeswoman provided a statement saying that police received emergency calls from students about an intruder in Trumbull College, which had been hit by a series of burglaries.

The students described “a tall, African-American, college-aged student wearing a black jacket and a red and white hat,” the statement says. “During the efforts to locate and detain the suspect, a Yale College student, who closely matched the description of the suspect, was briefly detained and released by Yale police.”

Yale police will conduct an internal review, she says.

The statement doesn’t name the student; nor does it mention whether police drew a gun. Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway ’95PhD told the Yale Daily News that he “does not deny that the student who was stopped was stopped at gunpoint.”

“That is a serious and unsettling issue,” Holloway told the News, while challenging Charles Blow’s use of the word “accosted” as “deeply inaccurate.”

Neither Yale nor the Blow family has described what Tahj Blow was wearing.

Yale’s full statement is below:

On the evening of Saturday, January 24, Yale police responded to emergency calls from undergraduates in Trumbull College, one of twelve residential colleges on the Yale campus.  Several students reported that an individual had just entered their rooms under false pretenses, pretending to be looking for someone. Students in Trumbull College have been the victims of burglary this week, and a person matching the physical description of the individual, as well as the story of "looking for someone" has been seen several  times in the college.  (See this report from the Yale Daily News:

On Saturday night, when students spotted him, they called police and described him as a tall, African-American, college-aged student wearing a black jacket and a red and white hat. This was the description that Yale police used as they converged on Trumbull and attempted to track down the suspect. During the efforts to locate and detain the suspect, a Yale College student, who closely matched the description of the suspect, was briefly detained and released by Yale police. The suspect, who was seen fleeing Trumbull College, was arrested shortly thereafter in Berkeley College (a residential college adjacent to Trumbull College) and will be charged with felony burglaries.
An internal review of the incident will be conducted by the YPD Chief’s office.


The Yale Alumni Magazine is published by Yale Alumni Publications Inc., an alumni-based nonprofit that is not run by Yale University. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the university administration.

Filed under Charles Blow, police, Tahj Blow


  • Alan B. Burdick '67
    Alan B. Burdick '67, 7:26pm January 26 2015 | Ico flag Flag as inappropriate

    Dean Holloway is "deeply inaccurate" in his contention that Charles Blow was "deeply inaccurate" in using the term "accost" with respect to the campus cop's action in immediately pulling a gun on Mr. Blow's son.

    "Accost" means (among other things) to confront a person in a hostile or aggressive manner. In the context of the campus cop's action, especially when he forced Mr Blow the son immediately to lie down on the ground, the term "accost" is very much an understatement.

    This is not a quibble. It is part of the problem with persons in authority seriously minimizing the nature of aggressive actions by police.

  • Flash Sheridan ’82
    Flash Sheridan ’82, 10:34am January 27 2015 | Ico flag Flag as inappropriate

    A similar thing happened to a friend and me junior year, though with more guns, on our way to the library. Though quite startled, I had to admit that the police acted properly; it was a very cold night, so my gloves, hood, and ski mask meant that ethnicity could not have been a factor.

  • Jackie Sorrell
    Jackie Sorrell, 3:45pm January 27 2015 | Ico flag Flag as inappropriate

    I am just thankful that his son followed his father's instructions on how to conduct yourself when confronted with this kind of behavior, as for many African American men it can mean the difference between living or death by a out of control police officer.

  • Jeffrey Bailey
    Jeffrey Bailey, 9:13am January 28 2015 | Ico flag Flag as inappropriate

    I'm not a gun 'hater,' but should campus police be carrying deadly weapons? Perhaps something effective in stopping an aggressor, but not deadly, like a Tazer. Accidents happen, mistakes are made; a mistake with a gun can have permanent consequences.

The comment period has expired.