Walking while black: Minnesota man avoiding construction arrested
A video from Edina, Minnesota shows a white police officer arresting a black man and accusing him of walking in the middle of the street, despite witnesses disagreeing. The officer had the man arrested without ever stating his charges in the video.
Janet Rowles was driving when she noticed Larnie B. Thomas, 34, walking on the white line dividing the road’s shoulder from the traffic lane. That in of itself was not eventful, as she assumed he was merely trying to go around construction on the sidewalk.
However, things escalated quickly when a plainclothes officer in an unmarked vehicle pulled over and grabbed Thomas, claiming he was walking in the street. Thomas denied the allegation, and Rowles is overheard corroborating his version of the story while the officer on the scene, Lt. T.F. Olson, gripped Thomas’s jacket.
The video begins with the officer dragging Thomas, who is heard shouting, “I’m walking on the damn white line!” while Olson insisted he was walking in the middle of the road.
“You can’t just put your hands on me like that!” Thomas replied.
Thomas quickly grew frustrated while being dragged to the black Jeep in front of the construction site and passing traffic. When the two reached it, Thomas slammed his backpack on the car, to which Olson replied: “Now you’re hitting the squad car.”
“You’re going to take me to jail for that sh*t?” Thomas asked.
“I didn’t say I was taking you to jail,” Olson replied.
“So put your hand off me,” Thomas replied, but Olson continued to hold him by the back of his shirt. At this point, Rowles interjected, saying, “Maybe you could just help show him where a good place to walk is.”
“Not in the roadway,” Olson responded.
Thomas repeated himself, demanding that Olson let go of him.
“I will walk somewhere else,” Thomas said.
“We’re beyond that,” Olson responded. At this point, Olson had not made it clear whether Thomas was or was not under arrest.
“No, we haven’t. That’s bullsh*t and you know it,” Thomas shouted.
“Why are you being this way?” Olson asked, still holding Thomas by the jacket.
The conflict continued with Thomas demanding to be released while Olson refused to clarify whether the man was under arrest until he called for backup and had another office handcuff Thomas and place him in the back of the squad car.
Edina police have released a statement about the incident.
“Recognizing the risk to the safety of the public, the officer pulled in behind the man with his lights and an audible signal in an attempt to advise him to get out of the roadway,” it read. “The man, who was wearing headphones, turned and looked at the officer and continued walking in the lane of traffic.”
They also wrote, “The officer smelled alcohol on the man’s breath during the incident. A breathalyzer later confirmed the presence of alcohol.”
Thomas was not charged with public intoxication. In fact, he was dropped off at a nearby mall at Thomas’ request with citations for disorderly conduct and pedestrian failure to obey a traffic signal.
The citations were dropped against Thomas on Monday after Mayor Jim Hovland acknowledged the national pressure after Rowles uploaded her video. However, Mayor Hovland stood by Olson, saying he "will remain on the job. He and all the officers involved followed … established procedures and the incident ended safely."
The NAACP is less than thrilled with that answer and is demanding an independent investigation be conducted and Olson be placed on unpaid suspension. In addition, the group asked that Edina begin collecting demographic data of their traffic stops in order to review policy and procedure.
The city so far has agreed to talk with the NAACP about collecting race data and said it "will provide additional training … on implicit and explicit bias. We would value suggestions for specific training from the Minneapolis NAACP." However, the city did not apologize to Thomas.
Rowles stands by her decision to record the incident, saying, “I’m not against the police, I was against what he was doing,” in an interview with the Star Tribune.
Rowles works as a mediator and said that Thomas’ agitation was understandable.
“I see people all the time be upset in ways that aren’t very pretty,” she said. “We’re human. It’s the job of the police to deal with it in a good manner, not the [one] who is being falsely accused.”