Facebook photo stirs St. Paul Taser debate
- Article by: Colleen Kelly
- Star Tribune
- August 31, 2014 - 8:13 PM
A photo posted to Facebook nearly five years ago is adding fresh fuel to debate over an incident in a St. Paul skyway that left a man tasered and arrested by police.
The image of the seating area was posted Sept. 22, 2009, to the Facebook page of First National Bank Building in St. Paul. It was rediscovered over the weekend by online commenters drawn to the image and its caption. The photo shows a wide hallway with a handful of blue-cushioned chairs and tables to one side. The caption on the photo reads: “Need a quick five? Enjoy a seat on the skyway.”
Whether the seating area is public or private is key because a call to police about a man sitting there earlier this year culminated with Chris V. Lollie being tasered and arrested by St. Paul police.
On Saturday, the five-year-old Facebook photo began to attract attention, with a series of posts mocking the caption with comments such as, “Invited to have a seat except for Chris Lollie apparently (?)” and “But you’ll be tazered on the 6th!”
Lollie, who filmed his arrest and then uploaded the video to YouTube last week, said he was waiting to pick up his children from a nearby preschool Jan. 31 when a security guard tried to kick him out of a First National Bank lounge in downtown St. Paul.
After police were called and Lollie left the area, the video shows one and then another St. Paul police officer following him through the skyway. The incident culminates with Lollie being zapped with a Taser and arrested.
Titled “Black man taken to jail for sitting in public area,” the video has become a viral sensation online with nationwide media coverage. Lollie, 28, is black. At least two of the arresting officers shown in the video are white. A third is not seen in the video, which has been viewed more than 850,000 times on YouTube.
Lollie was charged with trespassing, disorderly conduct and obstructing the legal process in the incident. Those charges were dropped in July, and his phone was returned to him July 31.
In a news release after the video surfaced online, St. Paul police said guards called police because Lollie was in an “employees-only” area. Last week, when a reporter from the Star Tribune checked, there was no signage in the busy area indicating that it was reserved for employees.
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.
On Friday, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman called for a Police-Civilian Internal Affairs Review of the arrest. He plans to meet with community leaders Monday to discuss the incident.
Over the weekend, some comments on the Facebook photo made light of the situation, while others shared stories of being singled out due to race. For one commenter though, the first thought was more down-to-earth: “I’m surprised this image and invitation to sit are still up. Take a screen grab while you can I guess.”
Staff writer Chao Xiong contributed to this report. Colleen Kelly • 612-673-7400 Twitter: @onecolleen
© 2014 Star Tribune