*After video went viral last week showing a black pedestrian being arrested by a white police officer in Edina, Minnesota for walking in the street where the sidewalk was under construction, the police department posted a lengthy explanation on its Facebook page, claiming there’s more to the story than the footage shows.
The cell phone video, shot Wednesday (Oct. 12) by a passerby identified as Janet Rowles, shows Officer Tim Olson dragging Larnie Thomas down the road, accusing him of walking the stretch unlawfully.
Thomas grows agitated after insisting he’s done nothing wrong.
“I’m on the damn white line,” Thomas shouts. “You can’t just put your hands on me like that!”
Thomas is seen taking off his coat, shirts and backpack in an attempt to move out of the officer’s grasp. Rowles, who is shooting the video, appeals to the officer, saying Thomas appears scared and telling the officer he could help the man instead.
“People die in these situations,” she says. “It’s scary.”
A second officer arrives and tells Thomas, “My partner told me you’re under arrest.” Both Rowles and a bystander claim the first officer never said the man was going to be arrested.
Thomas can be seen being handcuffed.
“You could have just shown him where to walk really kindly,” the woman shooting the video tells the officer. “You are the one that incited this.”
The incident took place about 18 miles away from Falcon Heights, where a St. Anthony police officer fatally shot Philando Castile during a traffic stop in July.
After Thomas’ video went viral, Edina Police released a statement on social media saying the incident started several minutes prior to the recording, when an officer saw Thomas walking in a lane of traffic “though there is a sidewalk on the east side and a sidewalk under construction and a paved shoulder on the west side of the street.”
According to the city’s mayor Jim Hovland, who also posted a statement on Facebook, Thomas was not taken to jail and was driven to a local shopping mall at his request and released.
A citation issued to Thomas for disturbing the peace and disorderly conduct will be dismissed, Hovland said.
Witness Janet Rowles, however, is not buying the police department’s attempt to sweep this under the rug.
“There was absolutely no reason for the officer to stop him from walking. I easily passed him in my vehicle because he was hugging the right side next to the construction, literally walking on the white line that marks the shoulder,” Rowles said in the statement released by the NAACP. “I have no interest in vilifying the police, but obviously I got out of my car in the first place because I perceive the pedestrian might not get treated fairly because of his ethnicity.”
The NAACP called the cop’s behavior “dehumanizing and degrading.”
“Watching that video and seeing a black man being manhandled and emasculated by Edina Police was not only painful and humiliating, it was a vivid reminder that blacks are still too-often seen as second class citizens in the State of Minnesota and in this nation,” said civil rights attorney and president of the Minneapolis NAACP, Nekima Levy-Pounds. “It is sad to say, but that man in the video could easily have been the next Philando Castile or Jamar Clark, two unarmed black men who were killed by police within the last year.”