Posted: Aug 28, 2014 5:10 PM CDT Updated: Aug 28, 2014 11:20 PM CDT
by Shelby Capacio –
ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) – Online outrage is heating up over recently-released cell phone footage of an arrest made in St. Paul at the end of January which shows police confront a black man who was walking to pick up his children from school and officers used a Taser on him right before their eyes.
The video — captured by Christopher Lollie, a musician from East St. Paul — is titled “Black man taken to jail for sitting in a public area.” It was uploaded to YouTube on Tuesday, and has been viewed more than 20,000 times since. In the video description, Lollie wrote that police confiscated his phone after the arrest and held it for 6 months.
‘So, what’s your business with me right now?’
The video begins with a conversation between the father and a white female St. Paul officer who followed him through a skyway. During the exchange, the officer asks Lollie for his name repeatedly; however, he declined to give it to her without an explanation of why he must. She replied, “Because that’s what police do when they’re called.”
“Well, I know my rights, first off,” Lollie replied calmly. “Secondly, I don’t have to let you know who I am if I haven’t broken any laws.”
Lollie then explained that he was on his way to New Horizons Academy to pick up his children and had been sitting in a public area for about 10 minutes before an irate man approached him.
“That’s a public area,” he said. “If there’s no sign that [says], ‘This is a private area, you can’t sit here,’ no one can tell me I can’t sit there.”
Over the course of a minute-long stroll, Lollie repeatedly told the officer that there was no problem. He explained that he had been sitting alone after getting off of work, telling the officer: “The problem is: I’m black.” Shortly after that exchange, Lollie called out to an approaching male officer — who is also white — who asked what was happening. Lollie repeated his intention to pick up his children as the officer moved to grab him. When Lollie asked not to be touched, the officer replied, “Well, you’re going to go to jail then.”
Lollie protested that he had not done anything wrong, and urged officers to wait; however, both continued to try and restrain him while telling him he was jail-bound.
“Come on, brother — this is assault,” Lollie said.
“I’m not here to argue, and I’m not your brother,” the male officer replied.
“I’m not doing anything wrong, sir,” Lollie stated once more.
“Put your hands behind your back, or this is gonna get ugly,” the male officer said.
The video tumbles to black as the male officer says, “You’re gonna get Tased.” At that point, a conversation that had been calm and respectful escalated to cries for help, and pleas for the officers to stop after he saw his children appear.
“My kids are right there!” he cried as the officer shouted at him to put his hands behind his back.
The clicking of the Taser can be heard shortly after Lollie asked an officer not to choke him, explaining that he has asthma. His cries echoed off the walls while the officers restrained him. Afterward, Lollie openly criticized the officers as racist and accused them of assault.
“I didn’t do anything wrong. I’m a working man. I take care of my kids, and I get this? You Tase me? For what?” he demanded. “I don’t have any f——- weapons. You’re the ones with the weapons here.”
Prior to the Taser deployment, Lollie neither raised his voice nor cursed at officers — a point he iterated once he was apparently cuffed. He also pleaded with police to let him go to his children, but was told, “Too late. You’re going to jail.”
On Thursday, Lollie changed his Facebook photo to the mug shot from his arrest. Messages of support have followed, including many encouraging Lollie to sue the department. One father who identified himself as a white man from Detroit posted to say his daughters were reduced to tears over the treatment Lollie endured.
Tune in to Fox 9 News @ 9 for more on this story.
St. Paul police ‘used the force necessary’
In a statement released on Thursday afternoon, St. Paul Police Chief Tom Smith defended his officers’ actions as appropriate. He also contended that the video didn’t convey the whole picture, and stated that his officers were called by private security over a man who was trespassing in an employee’s only area of the First National Bank Building and refused to leave.
“He pulled away and resisted officers’ lawful orders,” Smith said. “They then used the force necessary to safely take him into custody.”
Smith said his officers believed Lollie might either run or fight with him, and that is why they decided to arrest him. Lollie was charged with trespassing, disorderly conduct and obstruction of the legal process. In July, all charges against him were dropped.
Artist urges others to document to self-protect
Lollie is a local artist who sings and raps about racial inequality and civil rights, and he made it quite clear he believes the color of his skin played a huge role in what happened last winter.
“No matter my demeanor, how calm I was, they were still like, ‘He’s going to snap,'” Lollie told Fox 9 News. “Even though I didn’t snap, they treated me like I did.”
When asked why he did not give police his ID, Lollie explained that he read up on his rights after dealing with similar incidents.
“What I found out is that if I didn’t do anything wrong, you have no reason to ask me for my identification,” he said.
With the story of his arrest gaining national attention, Lollie is now encouraging others to learn their rights when it comes to dealing with police, and he also urges people to film their interactions with officers as a way to protect themselves.
“I’ve learned documentation is really the only way to save yourself in a situation like that, when you are not wrong,” he said. “Someone can still paint the picture of you being wrong.”
With the charges against him thrown out, Lollie said there should be no doubt that — as he said in his video — he did nothing wrong before he was arrested.
“It says to me that I had the right to sit down where I was sitting down, and nobody had the right to tell me I didn’t have the right to do that,” he said.