A New Yorker has shared his harrowing experience of police telling him to lie on the floor of a grocery store and pointing their guns at him following a mistaken report of armed robbery.
Twitter user Ziggy (@thehipsterrebbe) began a series of tweets relating events on 3 January by saying "here's a story about how I nearly just got killed by this cop" with a photo of the Nassau County police officer allegedly involved. It quickly went viral, with more than 66,000 retweets.
Ziggy was walking home from the gym when he stopped at a convenience store to buy conditioner, while wearing noise-cancelling headphones he said sometimes "hides" in his black curly hair.
After browsing in the shampoo aisle for about five minutes, Ziggy looked up to see a police officer with his weapon drawn.
He continued: "First he goes down another aisle. Then comes back...with another officer also with his weapon drawn. The second officer screams at me to get on the ground. Now. I can barely hear them cuz of my headphones.
"'What is happening?!' I raised both hands with my right still holding the conditioner. 'JUST FOLLOW MY INSTRUCTIONS!' He shouted back. 'Put your hands on the ground and move them forward.'
"My headphones were still blaring, I could barely hear. 'I CAN'T HEAR BECAUSE OF MY HEADPHONES. PLEASE TAKE THEM OFF. SO I CAN FOLLOW INSTRUCTIONS.' All I wanted to do was follow instructions. Last thing I wanted was some mild mistake to end my life. Like with Daniel Shaver."
Ziggy was referencing 26-year-old Shaver, who was shot and killed by police officer Philip Brailsford in the hallway of an Arizona hotel in January 2016. Bodycam footage showed Shaver begging for his life as he crawled towards officers on his knees, asking them not to shoot. Police gave him a series of instructions but Shaver seemed unable to follow precisely, saying: "Please don't shoot me... I'm trying to do what you tell me."
Brailsford was last month acquitted of murder because Shaver had reached for his waistband, with prosecutors saying it was reasonable to believe he had a concealed firearm.
Reflecting on the harrowing bodycam footage of Shaver's death, Ziggy wrote: "I've watched that video a dozen times wondering if I'd make the same mistake if I were in that situation. All Shaver did was reach back to pull his shorts up when they fell a little. A subconscious, small hand motion. He probably didn't even think about it. And it ended his life.
"What if I missed an instruction because of the K-Pop blaring in my ears? What if I reached for my ears and this rookie flinched?
"One of the ear cups must have shifted because I could hear the cop yelling. As he instructed. I got on the ground and crawled my hands forward. Kind of like Shaver."
Ziggy said he was then cuffed and searched before the officers, who turned out to be "really nice and apologetic", let him go. He later discovered that the store clerk had called police because she thought he was shoplifting, but somehow when the officers arrived they were responding to reports of an armed robbery, which Ziggy called a "colossal failure of communication".
He added: "When they came in, they were looking for somebody with a gun. That's why theirs were drawn. The bottle of conditioner I picked out was white. What if I had picked the black bottle? What if they had seen it wrong? What if my skin was darker? What if the cops had been a little bit jumpy?"
Other Twitter users also expressed concern that the incident could have mimicked the death of Magdiel Sanchez, a deaf man who was fatally shot by police in Oklahoma City in September after he was unable to hear their instructions. Police said Sanchez was advancing toward them with a metal pipe but witnesses were shouting that he was deaf and could not hear them.
IBTimes UK has made attempts to contact Ziggy and the police department concerned.