Video: Minn. police defend arrest gone viral
St. Paul police responded Thursday to criticism over officers' interaction with a man, including police use of a TASER, saying a video doesn't tell the whole story
By Mara H. Gottfried
ST. PAUL, Minn. — St. Paul police responded Thursday to criticism over officers' interaction with a man, including police use of a Taser, saying a video doesn't tell the whole story.
Chris Lollie, 28, said he was sitting on a chair in a downtown skyway Jan. 31 when a security guard told him it was a private area and he couldn't be there. No signs were posted saying it was private, Lollie said. The guard called police.
Lollie, of St. Paul, told an officer he was heading to pick up his children and didn't have to identify himself because he had done nothing wrong.
On the cellphone video that Lollie took, he can be heard saying, "The problem is I'm black, that's the problem. No, it really is, because I didn't do anything wrong."
Lollie said an officer later put his hands around his throat and ripped his jacket open. Another officer used a Taser on him, Lollie said.
Police wrote in a report that Lollie was "actively resisting by attempting to pull his arm away" and "began to forcefully try to shove past us as he was pulling away from us." An officer pushed Lollie against a wall to try to control him and Lollie accused the officer of trying to choke him, the report said.
"Several times I attempted to force his hands behind his back but was unable to overcome his active resistance," the report said. When Lollie's "resistance was becoming uncontrollable," an officer used a Taser on him, the report said.
Lollie was charged with three misdemeanors -- trespassing, disorderly conduct and obstructing legal process. All counts were dismissed July 31. Lollie said his attorney went to court with surveillance video from the skyway and witness statements.
Police had Lollie's cellphone after his arrest; he was told they were holding it as evidence, and he got it back after the court case was dismissed. Lollie posted the video last week on his Facebook page and, after hearing from people who wanted to share it, posted it Tuesday to YouTube.
When Lollie encountered police in January, he had been "trying my hardest to maintain my calm demeanor just because I know if I do anything outside of these bounds, they could really do some damage to me," he said in an interview Wednesday. "I really feel blessed I was in the skyway. If this had happened somewhere else, I might have ended up a little more hurt than I was."
The police department posted an item on Facebook about the video Thursday because "our community was speaking to us through our social media outlets and therefore we communicated with them in the same way," said Howie Padilla, a St. Paul police spokesman.
The statement, attributed to police Chief Thomas Smith, said police had responded to a report of Lollie trespassing in a private area and tried to talk to him, and he wouldn't cooperate.
"Our officers are called upon and required to respond to calls for assistance and to investigate the calls," Smith said. "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 encounter with police occurred after Lollie got off from working an overnight shift. He had been employed by a temp agency at the time and was cleaning at Cossetta's Italian Market and Pizzeria.
Lollie walked into downtown St. Paul to pick up two of his children. He couldn't reach their mother to find out if she'd brought them to day care yet, and he went to the center to see if they were there; they were not. Knowing they would arrive shortly, Lollie said, he was waiting for a bus to deliver them with their mother.
Lollie said he sat in a chair in the skyway. No signs said it was a private area, Lollie said. After a guard asked him to leave, he said he remained seated and continued to look at his cellphone.
First National Bank security guards had reported to police that Lollie was sitting "for some time" in a skyway-level lounge area designated for building employees, a police report said. A security guard had asked if he had business in the building and Lollie "refused to answer," the report said. He was told he needed to leave because the area was for employees, but he didn't, the report said.
When police responded, Lollie was "uncooperative and refused to stop," a police report said. Lollie told officers who were taking him to jail that he had recorded the entire incident, he would be suing and they would be fired, another report said.
In an interview, Lollie said he told the first officer who responded that he would walk and talk with her because he needed to get his children. He then started recording video on his cellphone.
"I don't have a problem talking, I'm going to tell you exactly what I was doing, but it shouldn't have led to, 'Well, let me get your ID,' " Lollie told the Pioneer Press.
"Well, no, you don't need my ID. I didn't do anything."
Soon after, two other officers approached. Lollie said he had been calm when the officers surrounded him. His back was against a wall or ledge, one hand was in front of him holding his phone and the other was behind his back, he said.
The video went dark when Lollie said an officer put his cellphone on a ledge, but the audio continued. Officers can be heard telling Lollie many times to put his hands behind his back. One said, "Otherwise, it's going to get ugly."
Police said in a report that Lollie squared "his shoulders to me and was clenching his right fist as if he was getting to fight" and an officer grabbed his wrist to keep him from punching him.
During the incident, Lollie said, he saw his 4-year-old daughter's day care class walking by and initially thought she was there, but she wasn't. The girl's teachers and classmates saw what was happening, he said.
"One of the kids in the class that saw what happened (later) said, 'When I saw them doing that to Allahna's daddy, it made my heart feel so sad,' " Lollie said.
The officers involved in the case were Michael Johnson, Bruce Schmidt and Lori Hayne, who has since retired.
Dave Titus, St. Paul Police Federation president, said Thursday, "These three cops in the skyway, you couldn't get nicer individuals. This guy was acting like a jerk."
Lollie plans to file an internal affairs complaint with police and is considering a lawsuit.
"I'm not going to stop," he said. "They wanted me to lay down to begin with, but that's not the type of person I am."
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Copyright 2014 the Pioneer Press