A white police officer was filmed arresting a black man who walked on the street to get around a construction area on a sidewalk in Edina, Minnesota, on Oct. 12 (video below).
Janet Rowles filmed Lt. T.F. Olson, a plainclothes police officer, as he confronted Larnie B. Thomas for allegedly walking in the middle of the street, while Thomas insisted that he was walking on the edge of the street, notes the Star Tribune.
Rowles told the newspaper that Thomas was walking on the white line that divides the shoulder from the street, which lined up with Thomas' version.
"I’m not against the police," Rowles stated. "I was against what he was doing."
Rowles recalled that she filmed the incident because she was watching something that she "didn’t think was very fair."
"I don’t fault [Thomas] for being agitated," Rowles added. "I’m a mediator, and I see people all the time be upset in ways that aren’t very pretty. 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."
In the video, Rowles asks Olson to tell Thomas where he can walk. Olson says he can't walk on the roadway, and tells Rowles to back up.
Thomas grows agitated as Olson directs him to an unmarked squad car. Olson asks Thomas why he is growing upset, and Rowles informs Olson that Thomas is scared.
Thomas repeatedly says the F-word at Olson, who tells him that he cannot use that language in the neighborhood.
The Marshall Project reported in 2015 that people are often arrested for cursing at the police, even though it is legal to do so as long as it does not constitute "fighting words" that are likely to somehow incite violence.
Olson holds on to Thomas' clothing, while Thomas demands that the officer let go. Thomas eventually takes off his jacket and his shirt to get free of Olson's grip.
Olson repeatedly tells Thomas to "settle down," and Thomas repeatedly asks him "for what?"
Thomas picks up his belongings as another police car arrives on the scene.
The second officer tells Thomas that Olson said he (Thomas) was under arrest. Rowles and another witness say that Olson never told Thomas that he was under arrest.
Olson and the second cop handcuff Thomas and place him under arrest.
Rowles tells Olson that he was the one who "incited this."
While the second officer has Thomas handcuffed, Olson walks over to Rowles and asks her if he can get the video that she is filming in public, but she doesn't hand it over.
Olson tells Rowles and another witness to go about their business, but they stay as Rowles keeps filming.
Thomas is led to a squad car by a second officer, while Olson directs a third officer toward Rowles and the other witness.
The third officer asks for Rowles' identification, but it's not clear why.
Thomas was cited for disorderly conduct and pedestrian failure to obey a traffic signal.
The video has gone viral on YouTube, prompting accusations of police racism.
In response to the outrage, the Edina Police Department released a statement on the city's Facebook page on Oct. 14:
A video of one of our police officers is circulating online. This incident started several minutes prior to the recording. During that time, our police officer observed a man walking southbound on Xerxes Avenue at West 60th Street in the southbound 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.
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. The man, who was wearing headphones, turned and looked at the officer and continued walking in the lane of traffic. The officer then drove in front of the man by approximately 15 feet, to block him from continuing in the southbound lane of traffic.
The man deliberately went around the squad car and continued to walk in the lane of traffic. The officer got out of his vehicle and started to follow the man, asking him to get out of the lane of traffic and stop. The man did not stop and was defiant. It was after that point that the recording began. The officer smelled alcohol on the man’s breath during the incident. A breathalyzer later confirmed the presence of alcohol.
As a bystander, it’s your right to film officer interactions. However, it’s important to note that attempting to interact with the officer and/or suspect creates a greater risk to the safety of the officer, suspect and bystanders. Public safety is our first priority. It makes it more difficult for officers to deal with the situation on hand when they are at the same time dealing with the distractions of bystanders.
Rowles defended her interaction to the Star Tribune: "I worry about these relationships that [the police are] destroying, It calls for extra patience."