One night last month, 11 black and Hispanic high school students were heading home to Jamaica, Queens after a visit to Howard University when they got had in an all-too-familiar encounter with New Jersey's finest. After the students had dinner at the rest stop near Exit 7A of the New Jersey Turnpike, someone called 911 to say that at least one youth was brandishing a gun. (Police say the caller warned of three youths with guns; the students and their three supervisors say troopers cited a report of a black male in a gray sweatshirt carrying a gun.) Regardless, the police reaction left the group outraged, the Times's Peter Applebome reports.

10 police cars pulled their minibus over, and as a helicopter buzzed overhead, officers with rifles drawn ordered the passengers to exit the vehicle backwards, one by one, with their hands up. Kyron de la Rosa, 16, recalls, "I kept thinking, ‘I really hope I don’t trip and fall because that could be the end of my life. I watch all the police shows — ‘America’s Most Wanted,’ ‘Cops,’ ‘World’s Dumbest Criminals’ — so I’ve seen things just like this on television, and I’m thinking: 'Wow. I thought those kind of things only happened to criminals. What’s going on here?'"

Each student and adult was searched, handcuffed and told to sit on a guardrail. After about an hour of being photographed by curious passers-by, they were set free without an apology or, as Applebome puts it, any "attempt to defuse the tension and hurt other than brusque explanations that the officers were just following protocol." The trip was organized by Safe Space NYC, a youth social service organization, and only yesterday did Captain Gerald Lewis called the center to explain (perhaps prompted by Applebome's inquiries). The person who made the 911 call has not yet been contacted by police, and Captain Lewis tells the Times, "It's easy to be a Monday-morning quarterback, but the officers had no idea who was inside that vehicle."