Confusion over Muslim burial tradition causes Tenn. police to launch manhunt after a miscarriage
Police in a small Tennessee town were searching for Muslim men on Wednesday after learning that they were possibly transporting a dead fetus to comply with Islamic burial traditions.
According to WZTV, an officer with the Millersville Police Department pulled over three men from Saudi Arabia on Wednesday during what was described as a routine traffic stop. The men reportedly told the officer that they were transporting a dead fetus, but they would not let him see or touch the baby for religious reasons.
Islamic tradition says that bodies must be buried by sundown on the day of the death. Out of respect for that tradition, the officer let the men go.
But Millersville Police later decided that the officer had done something wrong by allowing the men to transport the dead fetus according to their custom. Chief David Hindman said later on Thursday that officials were searching for the men, and that the officer had been disciplined. Officials contacted several mosques in middle Tennessee looking for men driving a blue Dodge Charger with temporary tags.
“Officers make mistakes, that doesn’t make them bad officers,” Hindman told reporters.
He noted that he had talked to a theology expert who said that the officer, who had only been on the job five months, had made the right decision because the fetus had already been prepared for burial.
“He said my officer at that moment had acted appropriately, by not defiling the body of the child,” Hindman explained. “But at that moment, I would have wanted to look at the child myself just to make sure.”
Officials were dispatched to mosques in Davidson and Williamson Counties search of the suspects, even though Hindman said that there was no evidence of wrongdoing.
At a press conference on Thursday, WZTV reported that officials described the driver of the car as “a mourning father who lost his child in child-birth,” and that the fetus was only 10 weeks old. Officials said that the family did have a permit to carry the fetus, and that the father’s story appeared to check out.
According to Hindman, the officer who made the initial stop had acted properly. It was not immediately clear why the officer had been disciplined, but the chief said that he wanted to put a policy in place that required officers to contact supervisors for future cases.
Watch the video below from WZTV, broadcast Dec. 10, 2014.