EDINA, Minn. - A local woman has uploaded a video to YouTube of an Edina police officer arresting a black man on October 12. This video is being shared on social media and now the police are responding.
On her YouTube page the woman said, "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."
The Edina Police Department has issued a statement and the police report in connection with the arrest.
On their Facebook page the police state:
"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."
The police report states that the officer pulled in front of the man because he was holding up traffic and he was walking with headphones. The officer says he believed the man was "creating a risk to his safety and others and it was prudent to advise him to get off the road."
The officer says in his report he instructed the man to get out of the road and the man did not obey. He said the man became confrontational and the officer grabbed him. The officer called for back-up and the man continued to be confrontational.
The man was arrested and handcuffed "without incident" after additional police officers arrived. The man was issued a citation and he requested to be taken to Southdale Mall where he was let go.
Witnesses on the scene included the woman who videotaped the incident. She believed that the stop was racially motivated which is why she began taping the encounter.
In a release Saturday, the Minneapolis NAACP quoted Janet Rowles, who they say recorded the incident. Here is her statement:
"I began videoing the incident because I felt that the pedestrian might be safer with my presence as a recording witness. There was absolutely no reason for the officer to stop him from walking. I easily passed him in my vehicle because he was hugging the right side next to the construction, literally walking on the white line that marks the shoulder. I have no interest in vilifying the police, but obviously I got out of my car in the first place because I perceive the pedestrian might not get treated fairly because of his ethnicity. There is now much controversy over the time that elapsed between when the incident began and when I started to video. I remember it to be much shorter than the police state, but I feel this is somewhat irrelevant because he never should have been stopped in the first place. We share the road all the time with bicyclists, people opening car doors, etc. The officer could have slowed to warn him he might be in danger by being on the white line and suggesting a better place for him to walk, but stopping to try to exert control over him was overzealous. His saying twice (on the video) that the pedestrian was walking down the middle of the street is an absolute falsehood. Also, I am disappointed to see that the officer who wrote down about ten words that I told him, managed to quote me as saying many, many things on the police report- some of which are completely untrue."
Other witnesses thought the officer handled the situation well without escalating it, but one witness questioned the need to grab the man.
Nekima-Levy Pounds, head of the Minneapolis NAACP, posted about it on her Facebook page. She said, "Friends, I am fuming right now. Take a look at this FB post by hip hop artist, Toki Wright, and accompanying video of what appears to be an unnecessary police stop of a black man in Edina." Musician and activist Toki Wright had earlier posted the incident.