Incident recorded on YouTube goes viral.
Police action against a black man in Edina, Minnesota, has sparked a controversy after an eye witness of the incident posted a video of the same on YouTube. The alleged victim, Larnie Thomas, 34, was stopped and arrested by a police officer last week while he was walking on the street.
According to a report in The Washington Post, a woman identified as Janet Rowles witnessed and filmed the entire incident which was later posted online.
Rowles said what the policeman did was not fair.
“[I] was watching something that I didn’t think was very fair,” Rowles told Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “I’m not against the police. I was against what he was doing,” she added.
Rowles was driving a car when she spotted a man walking on the road to avoid construction along the sidewalk. A police car stopped in front of the man and an officer got out of the car to question the pedestrian.
The woman was shocked to see the officer grabbing the man by the back of his jacket and accusing him of walking on the road violating the rules. She started recording the incident after realizing that the policeman was wrong to take action against the pedestrian.
The Edina Police Department has questioned the views of Rowles saying that the action taken by the officer was justified on account of what happened before the video was shot.
Edina Mayor Jim Hovland had to issue a clarification after several people raised concern over the police action.
“The officer involved was following established protocol. However, under the circumstances, the City will review that protocol and determine how to better approach this type of incident with greater sensitivity in the future,” said Hovland in a statement.
“We will work with the Edina community and invite other organizations to participate in this very important conversation. There are lessons we should and will learn from this experience,” the mayor added.
In the video, police officer Lt. T.F. Olson and Thomas is seen having an interaction leading to a heated conversation between the two.
“You can’t just put your hands on me like this! I’m walking on the damn white line!” Thomas told Olson when the officer stopped him.
While filming the incident, Rowles herself intervened and requested the officer to be calm and help Thomas who was scared.
“Maybe you could just help show him where a good place to walk is?” Rowles said.
The officer, however, arrested Thomas for violating traffic rules.
Hovland said that Thomas was not taken to jail. He was driven to a local shopping mall at his request and released. The citation issued to Thomas will be dismissed, said Mayor.
In a statement issued on Friday, the police rejected the claims of Rowles and said that the man, who was wearing headphones, turned and looked at the officer and continued walking in the lane of traffic when the officer advised him to get out of the roadway.
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 continued walking south in the lane of traffic. Moments later, police backup arrived, a breathalyzer was administered and the man was cited for disorderly conduct and Failure to Obey a Traffic Signal. Upon his request, the man was taken to Southdale Center where he was released around 12:30 pm, said the statement.
On Monday, the authorities said that the City of Edina will ask the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to conduct an independent investigation of this incident and Lt. Tim Olson will remain on the job.
However, the video uploaded by Rowles has been viewed more than 300,000 times. Minneapolis NAACP President Nekima Levy-Pounds said they have decided to stand with Thomas.
The incident once again raises concern over the police brutalities against black people in the US.