A 16-year-old boy was maced and forcibly arrested by a school resource officer at St. Paul Central High School late Wednesday afternoon. Video of the encounter quickly went viral on Facebook, sparking outrage, questions, and plans for at least two demonstrations at Central this week.
The video is not pretty. It begins with the teen and officer Bill Kraus huddled in a corner outside the school. The teen screams "Help!" as Kraus warns, "Get down."
The teen continues to shout for help as Kraus repeats his command for him to get down.
"What the fuck is wrong with you?" the teen asks.
"Get down," Kraus answers a third time. "You're under arrest."
As the teen yells that he came to Central to speak with a teacher, Kraus presses him to the ground at the bottom of a set of stairs, his knee in the middle of the 16-year-old's back. When the officer pushes the teen's shoulder down, he screams out in pain.
The alleged macing must have taken place before this video clip starts, but the teenager makes sure the videographer knows about it.
"You fucking see this shit?" he asks, his head pressed against the cop car. "I got maced and shit. I ain't never been maced in my entire life. This some bullshit."
As the video spread on Facebook without much context, emotional reactions poured in. While some people argued that the 16-year-old shouldn't have resisted arrest, many were infuriated to see a young man handled roughly by a police officer for any reason.
St. Paul Police spokesman Mike Ernster said Wednesday that the 16-year-old was not a student at Central High School, nor any other St. Paul public school. He had been trespassing on campus when staff told him to leave. When he remained, Kraus was called.
"There was no reason for this suspect to be in the school," Ernster says. "Central High has been having problems with trespassers this past year. Some of those trespassers have come into the school to assault students. In this case the suspect failed to check in at the front desk as visitors are required to do."
Kraus caught up with the teen in the gymnasium, where he was listening to music on his phone. Kraus beckoned, but the teen didn't budge. He looked at Kraus and began to sing out loud, according to the police report, so Kraus snatched the teen's phone and began to walk toward the exit. The teen followed.
Once outside the teen shoved Kraus as he tried to arrest him, Ernster says, so Kraus sprayed two bursts of mace in the teen's face. The rest is on video.
Ernster continued in a statement:
"No officer ever wants to use force. In cases where a person fails to do what an officer is asking, the officer may be forced to respond to their resistance. Officers use force for their safety, safety for the person in question, and the safety of those in the immediate area, which in this case included students at the school, staff, and people at the school who did not want this individual in the building. As with all incidents where force is used, this will be reviewed, and a determination will be made as to whether or not it was appropriate."
Wednesday afternoon, Rashad Turner of Black Lives Matter St. Paul (not an official BLM chapter) announced an impromptu protest at Central High School at 2.m. today. Almost immediately, Central students and other activists alike asked him to stop inserting himself into a debate about school resource officers that students themselves wanted to handle.
don't you think the Central students are perfectly capable of planning their own actions?? https://t.co/uP4irnVTf1— BlkLiberationProject (@blklibmn) May 26, 2016
Central's Pan-African Student Union is meeting after school on Thursday to plan a response, according to a student who posted on Turner's event page. Alumni are invited to weigh in.