Coleman requests review of controversial arrest captured on video

Mayor Chris Coleman
Mayor of St. Paul Chris Coleman in a May 2014 file photo.
Caroline Yang / For MPR News file

Mayor Chris Coleman has asked the city's Police Civilian Internal Affairs Review Commission to review the arrest of an African-American man in the St. Paul skyway in January.

In a widely viewed YouTube video that resurfaced four days ago, Christopher Lollie, 28, said he was sitting in a public area of the First National Bank Building in the St. Paul skyway, waiting to pick up his children at the New Horizons Academy, when private security guards told him to leave the area.

In the video, an officer asks Lollie to identify himself. Lollie refuses, arguing that he had not broken any laws. When another officer arrives and tells Lollie that he is going to jail, there is a scuffle. 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 be heard.

Police Chief Tom Smith said Thursday that officers "used the force necessary" to safely take Lollie into custody.

Related: After arrest video goes viral, police defend officers' actions

Christopher Lollie
Christohper Lollie
Courtesy of Christopher Lollie

Lollie said in an interview on Friday that he is convinced that the officers questioned and arrested him because he is black. Lollie said he tried to talk to the officers, but it "it was just color of my skin that made them want to escalate" the situation.

"My demeanor was what really saved me," he said. Lollie said he thinks his video of his encounter with police went viral largely because there is increased attention on police arrests of black men following the death of an 18-year-old by an officer in Ferguson, Missouri.

"This is happening every day, everywhere across the United States of America," Lollie said. "The premise of what happened in Ferguson remains the same everywhere. We need protection. We need the police. We really do, but we don't need the police we have right now. Not at all."

On Friday, Coleman said the arrest of Lollie has led some people to question the conduct and reputation of the police. "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 said in a statement.

The St. Paul Police Department has been working hard to build relations with people of color by doing community outreach efforts and diversifying its police force, the mayor said.

Coleman said he plans to meet with the NAACP, the African-American Leadership Council, the Saint Paul Black Ministerial Alliance and police officials to discuss the incident.

"I hope we can have a candid conversation about this particular incident," he said. "But importantly, I hope we can build upon the long-standing relationship that exist, and map out further work that can do to continue to build trust between our community and the Police."

Meanwhile, representatives of the Neighborhood Justice Center, said the two officers must be held accountable.

"Thankfully, Mr. Lollie had the wherewithal to record this incident, because without the video it would be hard for many to believe that this happened in our city," said Cullin J. Smith, the group's interim executive director. "Few people want to believe that our officers would abuse an average man for sitting in a chair, waiting for his children from daycare."

Smith said Lollie had broken no laws and the way the officers handled the arrest raises questions about the officer's conduct.

"Situations like this permanently damage our communities and the faith we have in our police," Smith said. "We hope that the Internal Affairs process will result in proper punishment for all Officers involved."

Lollie, however, said he is not filing a complaint with the Internal Affairs but suggested he might go to federal court "because there is no need to tell the police on the police."

"We can be unarmed and get shot," he said. "Thankfully, for me, I was in a very public area where there are a lot of cameras around because that could have taken a large turn for the worst."

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