Minnesota Mayor Pledges Protocol Review After Arrest Video Goes Viral

By Sameer Rao Oct 18, 2016

The mayor of Edina, Minnesota, announced yesterday (October 17) that citations will be dropped against a Black man who was captured on film being grabbed by a White plainclothes police officer and removing his clothing in an attempt to evade his grasp.

The seven-minute video, published to YouTube last Wednesday (October 12) and viewable above, shows Larnie Thomas being grabbed on the arm by Lieutenant Tim Olson. Thomas gets agitated with the plainclothes-attired Olson, who told Thomas he was blocking oncoming traffic by walking in the middle of the road. Thomas yells and curses at the officer, asking why he’s being touched. Thomas eventually removed his clothing from his upper body in an attempt to get free. The woman who shot the video, identified as a White woman named Janet Rowles, can be heard encouraging the officer to help Thomas. Rowles described the incident in the YouTube video caption as follows: 

I witnessed and videoed this earlier today. I passed by a man who was walking on the white line of the shoulder of the street. There was construction and it was obvious that the sidewalk was not available right there so he was hugging the right side as far as he could go. I went around him and noticed in my rearview mirror that an unmarked SUV turned on police lights. The officer pulled in front of the pedestrian to cut him off and proceeded to accuse him of walking in the middle of the street. I have posted a portion of the video that leads up to my giving an officer my address and phone number, which I’d rather were not posted on youtube.

Fox 9 published portions of Olson’s police report, in which he insisted that Thomas walked in traffic despite the presence of a nearby sidewalk, ignored the police siren and disregarded instructions after Olson identified himself as a police officer. Olson said he called for back up after Thomas slammed his backpack against Olson’s unlabeled SUV. After two other officers arrived, Thomas was handcuffed, administered a breathalizer test and cited for disturbing the peace and failure to obey a traffic signal before being released at a local mall.

The video was shared widely on social media and condemned by many as an example in which a police officer exercised power for a violation that would have been ignored had Thomas been White. The Minneapolis NAACP chapter demanded an independent investigation over possible civil rights violations and Olson’s suspension without pay.

Edina Mayor Jim Hovland announced today that while he felt Olson followed appropriate protocol, the protocol itself should be reviewed. He also said that the city "will provide additional training … on implicit and explicit bias," solicit suggestions from community groups and drop citations filed against Thomas.

(H/t The Star-Tribune, City Pages, CBS Minnesota)