Community Corner: What a difference a month makes

Published on: April 25th, 2019

One month after eight officers surrounded a Black Naropa student for the non-crime of cleaning as part of his work study job on his own rental property, Boulder Police Department officers seem to feel the national spotlight had dimmed enough to repeat much of the same behavior.

This time, again on film, police told a young Black man, Sammie Leon Lawrence IV, to drop what he had in his hand: a walking aid he repeatedly identified as ADA compliant. As he speaks to officers from a distance that appears beyond what’s required by BPD’s obstruction ordinance, police tell him to move. Lawrence replies, “I’m just watching sir. I am not seeing myself impeding in any way shape or form. If there is anything you wish to do involved with this, I would gladly step back, because I am not trying to impede you.”

Disregarding Lawrence’s comments about his walking aid and his willingness to step back if the police were going to do anything, Officer Lolotai rapidly escalates the situation, kicks Lawrence’s walking aid away, and takes him to the ground. Lawrence ended up with multiple deep resulting abrasions and later claims officers and medical personnel failed to protect him as he suffered a seizure in their care, resulting in him striking the ground with his head while handcuffed.

What a difference a month makes.

Boulder City Attorney Tom Carr was voted out as City Attorney in Seattle and called out there for “block[ing] . . . police-misconduct information from going public.”

Responding to concerns from NAACP Boulder County Branch members about Lawrence’s treatment, Carr says he reviewed the videos. He called the encounter “hostile,” and claims Lawrence’s walking aid “would make a quite formidable weapon if used as such,” but does not address that Lawrence offered to “gladly step back,” and clearly never made any threat with his walking aid.

Carr shared that no-one besides the young Black disabled man was arrested. Nevermind, it appears that the more things change in Boulder, the more they stay the same.

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