A recently posted YouTube video showing St. Paul police officers arresting and using a Taser on a man in the city’s skyway last winter is raising questions about the officers’ handling of the incident.
Chris V. Lollie, who filmed his own arrest and then uploaded it onto YouTube Tuesday, said he was waiting for his two children to arrive at preschool the morning of Jan. 31 when a security guard tried to kick him out of a First National Bank lounge in downtown St. Paul.
Guards called police when Lollie refused to leave.
“I was just sitting down,” Lollie said Thursday. “He wanted me to move out of that area because I didn’t look like someone he wanted to sit in that area. … I was completely within my rights to sit there.”
Lollie, 28, is black. At least two of the arresting officers shown in the video are white. A third is not shown in the video.
St. Paul Police Chief Tom Smith Thursday defended the officers’ actions, saying in a statement that officers feared Lollie might run or fight them.
Police allege in reports that Lollie was uncooperative, loud and declined to identify himself, prompting them to use a Taser to arrest him.
The police reports on the incident do not indicate that Lollie did anything to alarm the guard aside from refusing to leave.
Lollie said that within two minutes of sitting down, the guard asked him to leave. Lollie said he stayed in the lounge for about 10 minutes before police were called.
Lollie was arrested about 10 a.m. the day of the incident. He posted the video recently, he said, because police confiscated his phone and only returned it to him on July 31.
“As is often the case, the video does not show the totality of the circumstances,” Smith said in his statement. “The guards reported that the man had on repeated occasions refused to leave a private ‘employees only’ area in the First National Bank Building.”
On Thursday afternoon, there was no signage in the area indicating that it was reserved for employees. Three security guards worked the area, walking about and sitting at a security desk in direct sight of the lounge running the length of a long, busy hall that connects to the U.S. Bank Center.
First National Bank building security guards Thursday deferred questions about Lollie’s arrest to Nightingale Realty, which owns the building. An assistant manager declined to comment, saying that only Senior Property Manager Richard Rossi could field questions. Rossi is on vacation.
Lollie’s approximately 5-minute video shows one, and then two officers following him through the skyway.
Police reports show that officer Lori Hayne arrived first, followed by officers Michael Johnson and Bruce Schmidt.
“So, what’s your business with me right now?” Lollie is heard asking Hayne.
“I want to find out who you are and what the problem was back there,” Hayne says.
“There is no problem, that’s the thing,” Lollie says.
“So talk to me,” Hayne says. “Let me know who you are and you can be on your way.”
“… I know my rights, first off,” Lollie says. “Secondly, secondly, I don’t have to let you know who I am if I haven’t broken any laws.”
After more exchanges, Lollie says, “There is no — the problem is I’m black.”
A male officer arrives and tells Lollie, “You’re going to go to jail.”
Jeff Martin, president of the St. Paul NAACP, said Thursday that the video was disturbing.
Lollie was charged with trespassing, disorderly conduct and obstructing the legal process in the incident. Charges were dropped in July.
Lollie said he filed a complaint with police Thursday, which starts an internal affairs investigation. He also said he plans to sue.
“I want to see cops really answer for how they treat people,” he said. “My civil rights were violated.”