After arrest video goes viral, police defend officers' actions

The videotaped arrest of a man by St. Paul Police in January has been the talk of social media this week — so much so that Police Chief Tom Smith felt compelled to defend his officers.

Cell phone footage of the scuffle in the First National Bank Building in the St. Paul skyway shot on the man's phone and posted recently on YouTube, has gone viral.

According to a report released this afternoon by the St. Paul Police Department, private security guards called officers to investigate a man who was trespassing in a private "employee only" lounge area of the building. The security guards told the officers that the man refused to leave after they told him he couldn't be there.

In the video, a man later identified as 28-year-old Christopher Lollie tells an officer he was sitting in a public area and that he didn't see any signs saying the area was off limits. "No one can tell me I can't sit there," Lollie said.

Grow the Future of Public Media

MPR News is supported by Members. Gifts from individuals power everything you find here. Make a gift of any amount today to become a Member!

When the officer asks Lollie to identify himself, he refuses and asks why she's asking. "Because that's what police do when they get calls," the officer replied.

"The problem is I'm black," Lollie said. "That's the problem...I didn't do anything wrong."

Another officer then arrived and decided to take Lollie into custody.

"At this time I noticed him square his shoulders to me and was clenching his right fist as if he was getting ready to fight," said one of the officers quoted in the police report. "For safety reason[s], I grabbed him by the right wrist to keep him from punching me," said one of the officers quoted in the police report.

Warning: Video contains expletives

The video captures the officer approaching Lollie, whose phone falls from his grasp. The picture goes dark, but Lollie can be heard shouting for help. The sound of a Taser can also be heard.

Police say they deployed the "electronic control device" because they say "the force of the man's resistance was becoming uncontrollable." The report also notes that Lollie told officers he was recording the incident and said he was going to sue them.

Police arrested Lollie on charges of trespassing, disorderly conduct and obstruction of the legal process. But Smith said in a statement today that the charges were dismissed in July.

Lollie could not be reached for comment.

Smith also said that the video does not convey the totality of the circumstances of his arrest.

"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," the chief said. "He refused to tell them or cooperate."

Smith said at one point the officers believed he might either run or fight with them and when they decided to take Lollie into custody, "he pulled away and resisted officers' lawful orders."

The officers then "used the force necessary to safely take him into custody," Smith said.