A federal judge has ruled that a jury should decide the civil case against three St. Paul police officers who tased and arrested a man in the city's downtown skyway.
U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson declined to dismiss the lawsuit, saying there are too many disputed facts surrounding the altercation, which was partly caught on camera. In her 35-page opinion issued Thursday, Nelson ruled that a jury trial would be most effective in determining if any improper conduct occurred.
Christopher V. Lollie, 29, of St. Paul, was subdued with a Taser, then arrested Jan. 31, 2014. Lollie was sitting in a First National Bank skyway lounge that morning waiting for his two children. A security guard told him that the seating was for tenants only and asked him to leave. When he didn't, guards called police.
Lollie left the lounge and declined to identify himself to officers, repeatedly asserting that no signs designated the lounge as private. He began recording the interaction on his cellphone before officers, who have argued that Lollie was actively resisting arrest, used a Taser to subdue him.
Lollie has said he was targeted because he's black. Responding officers Lori Hayne, Michael Johnson and Bruce Schmidt — all named in the lawsuit — are white.
He was charged with trespassing, disorderly conduct and obstructing the legal process. Those charges were later dropped.
"What is not captured well in a written account of this incident is how quickly it progressed," Nelson wrote. "In just over one minute, Lollie is stopped, told he is going to jail, restrained against a wall, allegedly choked, tased, and taken to the floor by the officers. Besides the disputed facts recounted above, there is no allegation Lollie physically or verbally threatened the officers, resisted, or attempted to flee. Finally … there is no evidence that the officers conducted any investigation into any of the crimes Lollie was suspected of at the time …before Lollie was arrested."
Lollie's arrest drew national attention when he posted video of the interaction on YouTube. He then sued the city and the officers, claiming excessive force, false arrest, illegal stop and seizure, battery and false imprisonment.
The officers were cleared of any wrongdoing by the city's Police Civilian Review Commission in November 2014.
A trial is to start March 22.