A St. Paul man whose arrest last winter in the city’s downtown skyway raised concerns about racial profiling and police force is suing three officers and the City of St. Paul, saying his constitutional rights were violated.
Chris V. Lollie, 28, is seeking $500,000 in compensatory damages plus punitive damages to be determined at trial. The suit alleges that officers used excessive force, detained Lollie without “a reasonable, articulable suspicion” and committed battery against him on Jan. 31.
The suit alleges that Lollie’s Fourth and 14th Amendment rights were violated, and that the police falsified reports.
“What happened here is illegal, and we’re just looking to vindicate his constitutional rights,” said Lollie’s attorney, Andrew Irlbeck.
The suit was served on the city Oct. 31 but not officially filed in state court. It could eventually end up in federal court, which is typical of cases alleging police brutality and constitutional violations.
The city attorney’s office did not return messages Thursday seeking comment on the suit.
Lollie’s arrest quickly garnered national attention when he posted video of it to YouTube on Aug. 26. He had filmed about five minutes of the incident and posted the video once he was able to retrieve his phone from police custody.
In the video and in subsequent interviews, Lollie said he believes he was targeted because he’s black.
He was sitting in a First National Bank skyway lounge waiting for his two children to arrive at day care when a security guard told him the space was for tenants. Guards called police when he didn’t leave.
Officers Lori Hayne, Michael Johnson and Bruce Schmidt, who are named in the lawsuit, responded to the scene. Hayne questioned Lollie about his identity as he walked through the skyway, Lollie’s video shows. Lollie declined to identify himself, noting that it was within his rights since he hadn’t done anything wrong.
Lollie’s suit says he did not physically resist the officers but was held against a wall and tasered until he “fell screaming to the ground.”
“The Defendants however falsely wrote in their reports that Mr. Lollie refused to comply, physically resisted, and that his physical resistance was becoming so uncontrollable that Johnson told Schmidt to taser Mr. Lollie,” the suit says.
A transcript of Lollie’s video, excerpted here, illustrates his interaction with police:
“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.”
Lollie is eventually subdued with a Taser and arrested as his children’s day-care class walks past. His children did not witness the incident because they were late to day care, Lollie said in August.
The suit says that his children have faced “countless questions” by classmates about the arrest and that his daughter, who was 4 at the time, “has developed a fear of the police that causes her nightmares.”
Lollie, meanwhile, suffered “lacerations and bruising, burns from the taser, severe emotional distress, pain, suffering, humiliation, and a loss of liberty without arguable probable cause or a reasonable articulable suspicion,” the suit says.
Lollie was charged with trespassing, disorderly conduct and obstructing the legal process. The charges were dropped in July, and City Attorney Sara Grewing has said that there was no evidence that Lollie was on private property.
The arrest led Mayor Chris Coleman to ask the city’s Police-Civilian Internal Affairs Review Commission to investigate. Police Chief Thomas Smith defended his officers’ actions when the YouTube video was posted, but said he welcomed the scrutiny, and pledged that the process would be “very transparent.”
Results of the investigation are pending.
Irlbeck said Lollie is working and moving on with his life.
“He’s just living one day at a time and trying to focus on being a good dad,” Irlbeck said.