A black man whose confrontation with an Edina police officer was caught on video and caused a national uproar is suing the officer and the city, saying he was a victim of racial discrimination.
Larnie Thomas, 34, was walking in the 5900 block of Xerxes Avenue S. on Oct. 12 when he was stopped by Lt. Tim Olson, who accused him of walking in the street. Thomas said he did nothing wrong and became angry with Olson, who grabbed Thomas by the back of his jacket. Thomas was cited for disorderly conduct and pedestrian failure to obey a traffic signal. He was released.
Outrage followed after a bystander's 7-minute video of the confrontation was uploaded online. The video has been viewed millions of times and made headlines across the country.
The city later dropped the citation. Edina's mayor and a City Council member apologized for the incident during an Oct. 18 council meeting. But the city has also said Olson "followed established protocol."
In his lawsuit filed Friday, Thomas said Olson and the city "maliciously discriminated" against him by violating the Minnesota Human Rights Act.
Thomas cited the Minneapolis chapter of the NAACP's description of the arrest as "humiliating," and a "vivid reminder that blacks are still too often seen as second-class citizens in the state of Minnesota and this nation."
He is asking for a minimum $50,000 award.
Thomas' attorney, Tim Phillips, who has filed dozens of lawsuits against police departments, said he's hoping the case means more than just money for his client.
"Our focus is to make some sort of meaningful change," he said.
Edina Mayor Jim Hovland said he could not comment on the lawsuit until he and the council review it Tuesday night.
An Edina police spokeswoman said the department does not comment on pending litigation.
About 150 people filled the Oct. 18 Edina City Council meeting, where they described Olson's actions appalling, disgusting and racist.
When public comment concluded about 10:15 p.m., Council Member Bob Stewart apologized to Thomas.
"I think we can do better," he said. "I will say to Larnie Thomas, 'I'm sorry'." Stewart added, "We will work to have it not happen again."
Hovland pledged to meet with Thomas.
"It's one thing for me to sit up here and apologize," he said. "It's another to meet him face to face."
Phillips said that, to his knowledge, no meeting has taken place between his client and the mayor.
City officials said they would provide additional training to police and were open to the demand that it collect race data on its arrests and traffic stops.