ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO/AP) — Three St. Paul police officers involved in the January arrest of a man — who recorded the incident and claimed he was being targeted because he was black — have been cleared of allegations that they used excessive force, police announced Friday.
But Christopher Lollie's still angry, and he's now suing the city and the three officers for stopping and arresting him without probable cause, for false imprisonment and for using excessive force.
Lollie was being questioned, and then confronted, by three St. Paul police officers in a downtown St. Paul skyway when things went from bad to worse.
"It's stressful, but I'm glad there's a light being shined on the situation," said Lollie from his attorney's law office.
Lollie was waiting to meet his children at a nearby daycare in what he thought was a public area of the First National Bank building.
Security officers there asked him to leave and Lollie, who is African-American, refused when he spotted other non-minorities in the same area.
That's when officer Lori Hayne first approached Lollie, whom his lawyers say was under no legal obligation to give his name to Hayne.
Lollie's attorney, Paul Applebaum, said, "The situation went downhill from there as other officers were called in to respond."
Those other two officers, Michael Johnson and Bruce Schmidt, arrived and pushed Lollie up against a skyway wall.
While Lollie complied with officers, he continued to exclaim he had done nothing wrong.
Soon after, he was struck with the electric probes of an officer's Taser gun.
According to his civil lawsuit, Lollie suffered "bruising, burns and lacerations and has endured humiliation and emotional distress."
Applebaum, his attorney, said Lollie was doing nothing wrong, and didn't resist police.
"You can't stop citizens who aren't breaking the law and doing nothing suspicious and ask them to explain themselves," he said. You can't "ask for their identification and ask where they came from and where they are going."
Lollie said the experience has left his children fearful of police.
"They're supposed to be here to protect and serve us," Lollie said. "I want to instill that trust back into her."
The suit is seeking $500,000 in compensatory damages against the city and the officers in addition to punitive damages.
The city is not commenting on the suit.
Review clears three officers
The St. Paul Police Department announced that a Police-Civilian Internal Affairs Review Commission had reviewed the findings of an internal affairs investigation and exonerated the officers of allegations of improper procedure when they arrested Lollie, 28, in the city's skyway system.
Police Chief Thomas Smith said he supported the findings.
The St. Paul Police Federation, the union representing officers, said it was confident the review panel would reach the finding it did.
"When this arrest came to light, there were many who wanted to rush to judgment and condemn the actions of these highly decorated officers," federation president Dave Titus said in a statement. "Video footage rarely captures the entirety of a given situation. This is particularly evident when police officers are required to use force."
Tyrone Terrill, president of the St. Paul-based African American Leadership Council, said in the news release issued by police that he had concerns about the process and the findings, but didn't want that to affect the relationships he's developed with police.
St. Paul mayor Chris Coleman emphasized the diverse backgrounds and independent authority of the review board.
"When the commission finds no wrongdoing, as it has in this case, their obligation is to exonerate the officers," he said in a statement. "I respect the decision and the decision of the chief to pursue no further disciplinary action against the officers in this case."
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