Edina mayor apologizes, city responds to 6 NAACP requests after 'walking while black' arrest

The city of Edina, Minnesota is responding to six requests submitted by the NAACP Minneapolis following the arrest of a black man for walking in the street. The citation against the pedestrian has been dismissed, and the city has pledged to review its police protocols for incidents like this.

Edina responds to NAACP requests

The City of Edina issued the following responses to requests made by the NAACP Minneapolis:

That a formal, independent investigation be conducted regarding this incident and whether any department protocols or state laws were violated by the officer(s) in question. The inquiry should also include whether the civil rights and civil liberties of Mr. Thomas were violated.

Yes. The City of Edina will ask the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to conduct an independent investigation of this incident.

That Officer Tim Olson be suspended without pay, pending the outcome of a formal investigation into this incident.

Lt. Tim Olson will remain on the job. He and all officers involved followed the Police Department’s established procedures and the incident ended safely.

That Edina Police begin collecting race and other demographic data during traffic stops and to use said data in reforming departmental policies and procedures.

The City invites Minneapolis NAACP to talk with staff more about this and how the data would be collected and used.

A formal apology by the Mayor and Police Chief to Mr. Thomas and the public at large.

The City of Edina believes the officers involved followed established protocol. The City will review that protocol and determine how to better approach this type of incident with greater sensitivity in the future. There are lessons we should and will learn from this experience, and we will invite the community to participate in this discussion.

Retraining of all Edina Police officers on implicit and explicit bias.

Yes. We will provide additional training to Edina Police officers on implicit and explicit bias. We would value suggestions for specific training from the Minneapolis NAACP.

Implementation and adoption of best practices from the report by the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.

The City of Edina will work with the community to review the report by the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, as well as its own practices and protocols. We will also closely monitor the ongoing work of the Governor’s Council on Law Enforcement and Community Relations.

NAACP, community members attend Edina City Council Meeting

Dozens of community members took advantage of the public comment period at the Edina City Council meeting on Tuesday night to speak out about the confrontation. For hours, speakers demanded a formal apology and for Lt. Tim Olson, the officer involved, to face discipline.

James Hovland, the Edina mayor, said he supports additional training for police officers and has been meeting with community groups, including the NAACP. Hovland told the packed room, “We know this situation has been very difficult,” and said even though the officer was following protocol, “it’s disconcerting.”

One of the speakers was John Thompson, a coworker of Philando Castlile, who was killed by a police officer in Falcon Heights. Thompson told council members Edina is “just like Falcon Heights” and Thomas “could have easily been Philando.”

Several white community members said they believe the arrest never would have happened to them because of the color of their skin; one white resident said he walks down the street all the time and isn’t arrested.

Others took issue with the city saying the officer was following protocol. Mel Reeves said, “If those were procedures, then this is an immoral body.” Reeves told members to get Lt. Olson on the phone and tell him to “stay home tomorrow.”

Edina is 88 percent white.

Statement from Edina mayor

Edina Mayor Jim Hovland released the following statement Sunday:

“Just before noon Oct. 12, an Edina Police Officer observed and stopped Larnie Thomas, who was walking in the lane of traffic on a busy city street. Thomas was detained at the scene. People across the country are expressing concern about how he was treated by the Edina Police. 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. 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. 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.”

Last week, a YouTube video of the arrest was widely shared on social media. The Minneapolis NAACP called for an independent probe of the alleged “walking while black” incident.

"Watching that video and seeing a black man being manhandled and emasculated by Edina Police was not only painful and humiliating, it was a vivid reminder that blacks are still too-often seen as second class citizens in the State of Minnesota and in this nation,” said NAACP Minneapolis president said Nekima Levy-Pounds. “At any time, our rights can be violated by police and then various laws and policies are used to justify their conduct, rather than to hold them accountable. It is sad to say, but that man in the video could easily have been the next Philando Castile or Jamar Clark, two unarmed black men who were killed by police within the last year. When will we say Enough is enough?”

Watch the video on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=djyysjn6vCg

Initial response from Edina Police Department

“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. For more information about this incident, contact the Edina Police Department at 952-826-1610.”

Full narrative of police report

On 10/12/16 at approximately 11:46, I, Lieutenant T. Olson was on duty, in the City of Edina, dressed in plain clothes and driving an unmarked police vehicle. I was driving northbound on Xerxes at west 60th Street. I observed ahead of me, a man, later identified as the defendant, Larnie Thomas, walking southbound on Xerxes in the southbound lane of traffic. I observed there was a new sidewalk on the west side of Xerxes which, with the exception of cut-ins for private property connections to the trunk sidewalk, appeared to be completed. I also observed a paved shoulder, approximately 8-feet wide, on the west side of Xerxes and a sidewalk on the east side of the street. As I drove north in the direction of Thomas, I observed he continued to walk southbound, approximately 1/3 the way into the southbound traffic lane of Xerxes. I observed Thomas`s actions were obstructing southbound vehicular traffic as vehicles slowed to a walking pace while stacking up behind Thomas.

As I neared Thomas, I observed he was wearing headphones over his ears. I watched as several vehicles crossed over the double painted yellow line, into the northbound lane in attempt to drive around Thomas. I observed Thomas look in the direction of the vehicles as they passed him. I observed Thomas move slightly to the right of the traffic lane, then move back to his position in the roadway. Based on these observations, it appeared likely Thomas should have been aware he was in the roadway and causing an obstruction to vehicular traffic. I am aware that Xerxes Ave is a highly traveled feeder street. I believed Thomas was creating a risk to his safety and the others and it was prudent to advise him to get out of the road. I drove north, past Thomas a distance, activated my emergency lights and conducted a U-turn. As I neared Thomas, aware he was wearing headphones,

I tapped my squad siren. Thomas didn't respond. As I approached closer I again tapped my siren. This time Thomas turned, looked at me, turned back around and continued walking south in the lane of traffic. I again tapped my siren, to which Thomas did not turn, but continued his walk.

I drove around Thomas to a position approximately 15 feet in front of him. I turned and canted my squad to the right in a manner to block Thomas from continuing south in the traffic lane. Thomas walked up to and around the passenger`s side of my squad. Thomas looked at me as he passed, walked south around my squad, back onto the lane of traffic and continued south.

I exited my squad and identified myself as a police officer. I instructed Thomas to get out of the traffic lane. Thomas did not comply and began shouting at me. I again identified myself as a police officer, this time drawing attention to my police badge carried on my left side belt. I provided Thomas multiple instructions including phrases to the effect of; get out of the road, stop and return to me. Thomas disregarded my commands, while continuing to walk southbound, into the traffic lane and around a parked vehicle. I noted Thomas's response to the event to be unusual and extremely confrontational given the simple and basic request for compliance. I followed after Thomas and continued to instruct him to stop. Thomas did not comply with any of my directives.

I reached Thomas, who had now walked approximately 60` from my original stop location, and grasped his shoulder. As I made contact with Thomas, I could smell the odor of a consumed alcoholic beverage. Thomas began to struggle against my grasp, shout and use profane language. I instructed Thomas to return to my squad.

With my grasp on Thomas's shoulder, I escorted him back to my squad. Thomas continued to struggle and attempt to break free of my grasp. As I reached my squad, Thomas slammed a back-pack he was carrying onto the hood of the squad. I radioed dispatch for assistance.

While waiting for back-up to arrive, Thomas continued struggle against my grasp and began to use very loud and profane language (Fuck, Bull Shit and Shit). I observed several people begin to gather in observation of the event. I observed individuals who appeared to have emerged from their street front homes and an individual who appeared to be filming the event. Thomas`s behavior became more volatile as he spun away from me, removed his shirt and appeared to take an offense stance towards me. I did not attempt to physically engage Thomas further.

Officer Boerger arrived on scene. Thomas was advised he was under arrest and handcuffed without further incident. Officer Piper arrived and Thomas was placed in the rear of her squad. Officer Boerger administered an alcohol breath test (PBT #8) and advised me Thomas`s results were .017. 

Thomas was issued a citation (270616213232, MN 169.21, 169.02, 609.72), and, per his request, transported to Southdale Mall where he was released.