St. Paul police defend Chris Lollie arrest; lawyers question aggressive use of force

St. Paul police defend Chris Lollie arrest; lawyers question aggressive use of force
Chris Lollie photo via Facebook

:::: UPDATE :::: First National Bank Building asked folks to "enjoy seat" where Chris Lollie sat before arrest

In the wake of the stir caused by the hard-to-watch footage of Chris Lollie's arrest in the First National Bank Building skyway while he waited to pick up his kids from school, the St. Paul Police Department took to Facebook in an attempt to justify officers' conduct.

Lollie, however, tells us the PD's version of events isn't accurate, and lawyers we spoke with questioned why cops would use a taser on a man alleged to have committed such minor offenses.

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First, here's the entirety of the statement the St. Paul PD posted to Facebook yesterday:

Thank you for the discussion regarding the video that was has been circulated from a January 31, 2014 arrest.

As is often the case, the video does not show the totality of the circumstances.

Our officers were called by private security guards on a man who was trespassing in a private area. The guards reported that the man had on repeated occasions refused to leave a private "employees only" area in the First National Bank Building.

With no information on who the man was, what he might be doing or why he refused to leave the area, responding Saint Paul police officers tried to talk to him, asking him who he was. He refused to tell them or cooperate.

Our officers are called upon and required to respond to calls for assistance and to investigate the calls. At one point, the officers believed he might either run or fight with them. It was then that officers took steps to take him into custody. He pulled away and resisted officers' lawful orders. They then used the force necessary to safely take him into custody.

The man was charged with trespassing, disorderly conduct and obstruction of the legal process. Those charges were dismissed in July.

We have had a discussion with the man in the video and he was given information on how to file a formal complaint if that was his desire. At this time, no formal complaint has been filed.

We hope this helps to clear up some of the information our communities have been seeking.

We spoke to Lollie last night and asked him about the trespassing allegation.

"It's all false," he says. "They lied."

Lollie says he was sitting in a chair in the skyway's hallway when a security guard approached him, told him he was in a private area, and threatened to call police if he didn't leave. But Lollie didn't see any signs specifying that the area was employees-only or private in any other way, so he decided to hold tight, confident police would have his back if they showed up.

Officers showed up shortly thereafter, and Lollie says he started filming his now-infamous video after the first cop on the scene grabbed him.

As we told you about yesterday, Lollie was eventually charged with trespassing, disorderly conduct, and obstructing the legal process. Law enforcement kept his phone until the charges were dropped in July, meaning Lollie wasn't able to upload his footage to YouTube until quite recently.

Asked why the charges were dropped, Lollie says one of his daughter's teachers saw the entire incident and corroborated his version of events. Lollie says another woman who works near the First National Bank Building told investigators she would often sit and have lunch in the stretch of skyway where Lollie was arrested and had never been badgered by security guards or police.

With those two witness statements working in Lollie's favor, prosecutors decided to drop the charges, and Lollie was finally reunited with his phone.

We spoke with Robert Bennett, arguably the Twin Cities' foremost police misconduct attorney, and asked him what he makes of the footage.

(For more, click to page two.)

Bennett says that even if police had a reasonable suspicion Lollie was committing a misdemeanor, that still wouldn't justify officers using a taser against him. Lollie says the taser strike left him with bruises and marks on his leg.

"It's sort of like spitting on the sidewalk," Bennett says. "There's not much reason to use force on somebody in that case... It's really about 'contempt of cop.'"

Bennett's sentiments were echoed by Twin Cities lawyer and media personality Ron Rosenbaum, who questioned whether police were working with the reasonable suspicion Bennett refers to.

"I think [Lollie's treatment] is outrageous," Rosenbaum tells us, though both he and Bennett acknowledged not being sure whether the area Lollie was sitting in is a public place or not.

Though the St. Paul PD has pointed out more than once that no formal complaint has been filed against the officers involved in Lollie's arrest, Lollie tells us he plans to file one as soon as today. He's also moving forward with a lawsuit against the city.

We asked Lollie if he thinks Bruce Schmidt, the officer who tasered him, should lose his job.

"That's a tough one. I think it depends on his history," Lollie replies. "I think someone needs some racial sensitivity training, something like that."

"Police are supposed to help, and they still have that capacity," Lollie continues. "But the mental capacity of many officers today is questionable."

Send your story tips to the author, Aaron Rupar. Follow him on Twitter @atrupar.

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