Black activist robbed; gains new appreciation for police

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A black rights advocate, often critical of Tampa police relations, was assisted by officers early Saturday morning after being robbed at gunpoint in Ybor City.

Ali Muhammad is well known in the Bay Area community for calling attention to the need for police reform during the selection process of the police citizens review board. He also wants to put an end to black crime, encouraging community members to come forward after several deadly shootings.

Muhammad became the victim of a black-on-black crime after a night of working as a DJ at a club in Ybor City. While walking down 8th Avenue around 3 a.m., Muhammad was robbed at gunpoint.

"I was approached by a young black male who just came up to me and said, 'Give me your earrings and your backpack,'" recalled Muhammad. "He took everything I had. At the time, he didn't take my cell phone, and that's what made me call 911."

Muhammad followed the suspect down the street from a distance, until he was advised to stop by 911 dispatchers.

Along the way, suspect robbed two other women at gunpoint, according to the police report.

"One lady, she was in tears. She said she couldn't believe it. He had the gun in her mouth," said Muhammad, who came in contact with the women after they ran from the suspect.

Within 10 minutes of receiving Muhammad's call for help, Tampa police had several officers searching for the suspect, described as being shirtless and holding a handgun.

Officers spotted the suspect, 18-year-old Antwan Robertson, and chased him to a nearby Burger King parking lot.  They found him hiding behind a dumpster.

Muhammad got back his stolen jewelry and backpack, which held his laptop and ID, after officers apprehended the suspect.

He said the ordeal gave him an appreciation for the officers involved.

"Police can be hostile and very belligerent. Friday night, I met some officers who [were] about business, and that was getting a bad guy off the street," said Muhammad.

He said his misfortune is an example of the black-on-black crime he and the New Black Panthers advocate against in the black community.

"To just go out late at night and throw your life away, robbing people, that's hurting," he continued. "Every black life is valuable right now, especially a black male, and for him to keep going on with the norm, continue with the process of going to jail and ending your life like that, as our boys are doing nowadays, it's very hurting."

Muhammad said the traumatic experience that ended without anyone injured is also an example of why police and the community must be able to come together for a greater good.

"I congratulated the police," said Muhammad, "I'm very anti-police, but I'm not against police relations and community relations."

Robertson is believed to be homeless, according to the police report.  He is currently being held in the Hillsborough County Jail on a $62,500 bond and is facing multiple charges, including three counts of armed robbery, possession of a firearm, and possession of drugs.

Editor's note: The New Black Panther Party has since disputed Muhammad's role as a leader of the organization. The local party Facebook page calls him a "local chairman" but the party, after this story was published, stated he "does not  currently hold leadership position."