Minnesota man will file civil rights suit against cops who Tased him for not identifying himself
A 28-year-old man who filmed his arrest and Tasing at the hand of two police officers in St. Paul, Minnesota earlier this year will file a federal civil rights lawsuit as the incident continues to gain attention, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported on Friday.
The footage of Chris Lollie’s arrest this past January has been viewed more than 280,000 times as of Friday since being posted earlier this week.
“The video speaks for itself,” Lollie’s attorney, Andrew Irlbeck, was quoted as saying. “He was there to pick up his children and bring them to daycare and when I do it as a white man, that’s what it gets called. When a black man does it, it’s loitering and trespassing, and he gets arrested and force used against him by police.”
The footage was uploaded only recently because police confiscated his phone, which he used to document the arrest. Lollie was charged with disorderly conduct, obstructing legal process and trespassing at the time, but the charges were dropped on July 31.
Minneapolis City Pages reported that the encounter began when a security guard approached Lollie, who was sitting on a chair in the skyway at the First National Bank building, and said he was in a private area. Lollie responded that there were no signs designated his location as being a private area.
The video begins with a female officer, identified as Lori Hayne, asking Lollie for his name, which Lollie points out he is not required to do. He also repeats his point that there were no signs marking the area where he was sitting as private, adding that he was on his way to pick his children up at their school nearby.
Minnesota does not have a “stop and identify” statue in place, meaning officers do not have the right to arrest someone solely for not identifying themselves. According to the Pioneer-Press, Hayne retired this past June after 14 years on the force without any disciplinary measures on her record.
The other officers identified in connection with the incident are Michael Johnson and Bruce Schmidt. WBBM-TV reported that none of the officers involved have been disciplined.
The video shows one of the other officers approaching Lollie, threatening to arrest him and grabbing him within seconds. The footage goes black after Lollie loses control of his phone, but the Taser can still be heard as it is used on Lollie. When Lollie asks why he is being taken to jail, no charges are mentioned, though one officer can be heard telling him charges will be “explained” to him.
“It’s like being powerless, just being powerless,” Lollie told WBBM this week. “That’s how I felt.”
On Friday, Mayor Chris Coleman ordered that the arrest be reviewed by the local Police-Civilian Internal Affairs Review Commission, a group comprised of two officers and five members of the community. The commission’s findings are typically passed on to Police Chief Tom Smith, who has the final say on whether to discipline officers accused of excessive force.
“In the last several days, a video of an arrest of an African-American man has led some to question the tactics and reputation of the St. Paul Police Department,” Coleman said in a statement. “While the incident occurred over eight months ago, the video raises a great deal of concern, especially given this summer’s shooting death of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Mo.”
Coleman’s order came a day after Smith’s department defended Lollie’s arrest in a statement posted on Facebook, saying they were concerned Lollie might try to flee the scene or fight them.
“The guards reported that the man had on repeated occasions refused to leave a private “employees only” area in the First National Bank Building,” the department’s statement read. “With no information on who the man was, what he might be doing or why he refused to leave the area, responding Saint Paul police officers tried to talk to him, asking him who he was. He refused to tell them or cooperate.”
The mayor was also criticized by Dave Titus, president of the local police federation.
“We do not choose what calls we respond to, and we do not have the luxury of all of the information prior to arrival,” Titus told the Pioneer Press. “The outcome of this arrest was determined by Mr. Lollie. He refused numerous lawful orders for an extended period of time. The only person who brought race into this situation was Mr. Lollie.”
Lollie rejected the police’s argument as “false,” telling City Pages that the charges against him were dropped because one of his daughter’s teachers supported his account of the arrest, while a woman who works near the site of his arrest told authorities she often ate lunch there without any recrimination from security guards or officers.
The case has also drawn the attention of several civil advocacy organizations. Not only are police officials reportedly scheduled to meet with members of the local Black Ministerial Alliance, African American Leadership Council and NAACP early next week, but the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) called for a federal investigation into Lollie’s arrest, calling it racial profiling.
“We believe this disturbing incident would not have unfolded as it did had the individual in question been white,” CAIR spokesperson Ibrahim Hooper said in a statement. “The Department of Justice should investigate this case just as it is investigating the shooting of Michael Brown in Missouri and other cases of allegedly racially motivated police brutality.”
Watch WBBM’s report on Lollie’s case, as aired on Friday, below.