EDINA, Minn. - The pedestrian stopped and briefly detained after walking down the middle of a busy Edina street has filed a civil lawsuit against the city and the police officer involved in the incident.
Larnie Thomas is requesting a jury trial and damages in excess of $50,000 for the incident, which was captured on cell phone video and posted all over social media. The lawsuit alleges that veteran police Lieutenant Tim Olson humiliated Thomas, grabbing him by the jacket, handcuffing and detaining him only because he is black.
The incident began when Olson spotted Thomas walking down busy Xerxes Avenue near 60th Street on October 12. Olson, sensing a danger to both the pedestrian and the community, pulled in behind Thomas and turned on his squad car lights and an audible siren. Edina Police say Thomas, who was wearing headphones, looked over his shoulder but kept walking down the street.
Cell phone video shot by witness Janet Rowles shows Olson grabbing Thomas by the arm, and then by the jacket as the pedestrian tried to pull away from him. Thomas becomes agitated, yelling and using profanity as Lieutenant Olson tries to lead him off the street. Eventually, things escalate to the point that Thomas is handcuffed and led away to a police vehicle.
The police report on the incident details how several callers dialed 911 earlier in the day reporting that a man matching Thomas's description was yelling at cars and behaving erratically while walking down France Avenue in Minneapolis. It also indicates a preliminary breath test at the Edina scene registered his blood alcohol content at .17, more than twice the legal limit.
Edina Police said in a statement released following the incident that Thomas was uncooperative, defiant and under the influence of alcohol during the incident. They say he was never jailed, but released at Southdale Mall at his request. Thomas was given a citation that was later dismissed after Rowles' videotape triggered anger, demonstrations and an animated protest at an Edina City Council meeting.
The lawsuit filed in Hennepin County District Court alleges that Olson singled out Thomas because he is black, and that the City of Edina is responsible for Olson's conduct and for establishing the policies and procedures that led to Thomas being detained.
"Here, Defendants maliciously discriminated against Plaintiff in violation of the Minnesota Human Rights Act by treating Plaintiff in a manner so at variance with what would reasonably be anticipated, absent
discrimination, that discrimination is the probable explanation," Thomas's attorneys allege in the lawsuit.