Christopher Lollie was sitting in a public area while waiting to pick up his kids from the New Horizon Academy preschool in St. Paul, MN when he received a surprise in the form of 50,000 volts and handcuffs.
A security guard from a nearby bank asked Lollie to leave the area of a public skyway on which he was sitting, claiming that it was a lounge for employees only. As there were no signs indicating it was private, Lollie refused to leave. Unfortunately for him, the security guard called the St. Paul Police Department.
In cell phone video the father managed to capture, a female officer told him, “I want to know who you are and what the problem was back there.”
“Why do I have to let you know who I am?” Lollie asked. “I don’t have to let you know who I am if I haven’t broken any laws.” He informed her that he was sitting in a public area for ten minutes waiting to pick up his children.
Despite the explanation, the officer repeatedly asked what the “problem” is. Lollie responded, The problem is I’m black. It really is, because I’m not sitting there with a group of people. I’m sitting there by myself, not causing a problem.”
The African-American dad remained calm during his explanation to police, who responded with hostility. Another (white) officer approached him, and Lollie asked, “What’s going on, brother?”
The officer responded, “I’m not your brother” and informed him he was going to jail. The officers began to physically accost Lollie, who insisted he did not not do anything wrong, and that he had to go get his kids.
As Lollie screamed for help, the officers forcibly handcuffed and tased him despite that he was not in any way violent or threatening. Lollie begged officers to allow him to get his children, whose classmates and teachers witnessed the assault.
The St. Paul Police Department released a statement regarding the incident.
“As is often the case, the video does not show the totality of the circumstances.
Our officers were called by private security guards on a man who was trespassing in a private area. The guards reported that the man had on repeated occasions refused to leave a private “employees only” area in the First National Bank Building.
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.
Our officers are called upon and required to respond to calls for assistance and to investigate the calls. At one point, the officers believed he might either run or fight with them. It was then that officers took steps to take him into custody. He pulled away and resisted officers’ lawful orders. They then used the force necessary to safely take him into custody.
The man was charged with trespassing, disorderly conduct and obstruction of the legal process. Those charges were dismissed in July.”
The charges were, indeed, dropped on July 31 after security footage and a teacher’s statement backed up Lollie’s story.
“The teacher actually gave me a witness statement, stating that ‘He was calm, he wasn’t doing anything wrong, he was talking to them, and they just started assaulting him,’” Lollie told the Twin Cities Daily Planet.
“It hurts, it really does,” said Lollie. “Because no matter what, I could be the nicest guy in the world, talk with respect, I can be working, taking care of my kids, doing everything a model citizen is supposed to do, and still I get that type of treatment.”
Minnesota does not have a “stop and identify” statute that would require Lollie to tell them who he is or allow them to arrest him for refusing to identify himself — something he could not do, as his wallet was stolen earlier that month.
The officers involved in the assault have been identified as Lori Hayne, Michael Johnson, and Bruce Schmidt. One of the officers, Schmidt, received oral reprimands in 1992 and 1998 for preventable accidents.
Lollie plans to file a complaint with internal affairs –but Mayor Chris Coleman said on Friday that he is personally ordering a review of the arrest.
“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,” the Mayor 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.
“It’s tough being a black man in this society,” Lollie said. “But one thing I do know, the picture that’s already painted of me and every other black man in this country, if I acquiesce to that picture, I’m not going to be able to say that’s not who I am.”