Boulder police arrested a black man who was using a cane while he was filming an officer ticketing a group of homeless people, an interaction that has once again stirred some racial tension just a month after officers confronted a black student picking up trash.
According to a police report, Boulder Officer Waylon Lolotai was doing extra patrols on Friday afternoon near the Mapleton Ball Fields near 30th Street and Mapleton Avenue at the request of Boulder Police Chief Greg Testa.
While on patrol, Lolotai reported seeing three transients "lounging around a large pile of property and trash," and approached them and asked for ID.
At that time, Lolotai wrote in his report that a man later identified as Sammie Lawrence, 26, approached him while recording the interaction. Lolotai wrote in the report Lawrence was carrying "a large staff" in his hand, and asked Lawrence to move away.
Lawrence, who declined to comment when reached by a reporter Sunday, posted a video of the arrest on Facebook saying the staff was to help him walk and balance due to problems he has with seizures. The bottom end of the staff appears to have a rubber tip, while the handle end is a wood carving of a dragon.
In the police report, Lolotai wrote he was OK with the filming as long as Lawrence dropped the cane. When Lawrence refused to drop the stick, Lolotai said he was "alarmed by Sammie's refusal to drop the staff" and told Lawrence he would be arrested if he continued to refuse orders.
Two other officers arrived on scene and also gave orders for Lawrence to move back. When he did not, Lolotai tried to arrest Lawrence. Lolotai wrote in the report Lawrence "violently pulled away" and did not let go of the staff until Lolotai kicked it away from him.
In the video Lawrence posted, he can be heard saying "Stop it, you are assaulting me," as the video shows him being taken down to the ground.
According to the report, Lawrence was taken to the hospital to be medically cleared before being taken to the Boulder County Jail on suspicion of obstructing a peace officer and resisting arrest. He was later released on bond.
The walking stick remains in police custody as evidence, according to the report. Lolotai indicated in the report he was recording with his body camera but that it fell off during the struggle.
Boulder police spokeswoman Shannon Aulabaugh said the incident was reviewed by command staff and that at this time there will be no internal investigation into the incident.
According to the report, the increased patrols in the area came after Testa was forwarded an email to Boulder City Council by a Boulder Valley School District employee complaining about the number of transients spending time near the ball fields.
After Lawrence's arrest, police ticketed two men in a brawl and also arrested another — who happened to be one of the transients in Lawrence's video — on suspicion of assaulting a man with an aluminum bat.
The arrest comes amidst increased scrutiny of Boulder police following an incident on March 1 in which eight cops responded to a black Naropa student, Zayd Atkinson, picking up trash in his own front yard.
That case has generated an internal investigation by police and calls for independent oversight of the Boulder Police Department.
Mitchell Byars: twitter.com/mitchellbyars