St. Paul stun gun arrest: Police release skyway surveillance video

St. Paul police have released surveillance videos that provide new details on the Jan. 31 arrest of Christopher Lollie. The department's Internal Affairs Unit is reviewing the arrest. Mayor Chris Coleman ordered the review after Lollie's cell phone video documenting the incident went viral, garnering more than 1 million views.

MPR News reporter Curtis Gilbert watched the videos, spoke to police officials and reviewed city rules to try to find out what happened and what areas of skyway are open to the public. Here's his review of what occurred:

What do these new surveillance videos show us that Lollie's cell phone video didn't?

First, they show what happened before Lollie was confronted by police. He sat down in a chair at a public seating area on the skyway level of the First National Bank building at 9:34 a.m. The video is grainy, there is no sound and Lollie is pretty far from the camera, but it appears from the video that he is just sitting there.

After six minutes, a white security guard approaches Lollie, who is black. The guard appears to talk to Lollie for about 40 seconds. But as the video does not have sound, it is impossible to tell what they are saying. The guard goes back to his desk for a minute, then returns and talks to Lollie a second time, for a bit longer.

There are two other people sitting in the area. The one closest to Lollie — a woman whose race is impossible to determine — leaves after the guard comes over a second time. A white man is sitting in the same area talking on a cell phone. He doesn't appear to interact with the guard. After sitting there a total of 16 minutes, Lollie stands up and starts to walk away, just as Officer Lori Hayne arrives.

Watch security camera and phone camera videos side-by-side as St. Paul police confront Chris Lollie:

What happens then?

Lollie leaves the First National Bank building via the skyway, where there is a second security camera. Its video picks up slightly less than three minutes after Lollie leaves First National Bank. By the time he is two buildings away, at the Securian Center 401 Building, three officers are on scene — Hayne, Michael Johnson and Bruce Schmidt. This is the same section of the incident that Lollie recorded on his cell phone, but we see a lot more, including Lollie himself as he argues with police.

Lollie's video also goes dark after two minutes, when his phone apparently falls to the floor during his struggle with police. On the surveillance video, we see Schmidt take out his Taser, and use it to shock Lollie in the thigh. That temporarily incapacitates him. The officers then handcuff Lollie and arrest him.

Police arrested Lollie on charges of trespassing, disorderly conduct and obstruction of the legal process. But after police determined that Lollie broke no laws, the charges were dismissed in July.

In a recent interview, Lollie said his demeanor that day saved him from harm. Attorneys who initially represented him say his video captured what can happen in the city.

What questions are still unanswered?

It's still not clear why the security guards confronted Lollie in the first place. In the police report, the guards claim he was sitting in an area of the First National Bank Building's skyway reserved for employees. According to the St. Paul City Attorney's Office, it is not.

In St. Paul, the skyway system is considered a public right of way, just like the sidewalks. They're part of an easement, giving the public the right to use them. There are ordinances governing what people can do in the skyway and what is prohibited, but there is no rule against being there.

Watch security camera video of Chris Lollie in First National Bank skyway area:

Is it unusual for private security guards to call the police on alleged trespassers?

Apparently it is not. St. Paul Police Sgt. Paul Paulos, who has worked as a beat cop in downtown St. Paul, said today it's pretty typical. There have only been three reports of trespassing at First National Bank Building in the last five years, but there have been close to 30 "disturbance" calls, which include trespassing, alleged disorderly conduct and reports of suspicious people. It is not clear how many of those were in the skyway system. In most cases, police did not file report. Officers simply spoke to people, or the person in question left by the time they got there.

Why would police respond to a report of someone trespassing in a public area?

Police officials say that when someone calls them, they don't always have all the facts on hand. That's why they show up and investigate. But it appears there is quite a bit of confusion about which parts of the skyway are public and which ones are private. Paulos said today that his understanding was only the skyway bridges were public and the parts inside the buildings were private. But that's not the case in St. Paul. Unlike Minneapolis, the entire St. Paul skyway system is public space. I spent almost an hour today sitting in the exact same chair where Chris Lollie was, typing on my laptop, and fiddling with my phone. Security never came up and asked me what I was doing there.

Related coverage:
Skyway expert says public-private boundary creates confusion
City attorney: FNB seats in skyway are public

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