City attorney: Lollie incident happened in public area of St. Paul skyway

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The St. Paul city attorney says the man who posted a video online of a controversial encounter with police in a St. Paul skyway was actually seated in the public area, not in private property as a security guard reported to officers before the incident, the Pioneer Press reports.

Chris Lollie, 28, posted a cellphone video that showed him being confronted by police in the Jan. 31 incident.

Lollie said he was in a skyway-level seating area in the First National Bank Building, waiting to pick up his children from a nearby preschool, when a guard told him to leave because he was trespassing. Lollie refused, saying he believed the area was a public space, so the guard called police.

When the officers arrived, they asked Lollie his name and he declined to give it. Police said Lollie pulled away and resisted them, so they used a stun gun to subdue and arrest him.

The video he posted, called "Black man taken to jail for sitting in public area," has been viewed nearly 1.2 million times online and has attracted national attention since it was posted on YouTube last week. Much of the legal discussion surrounding the incident has focused on whether Lollie was indeed sitting in a public area, or trespassing on private property.

Following the incident, Lollie was charged with misdemeanor trespassing, disorderly conduct and obstructing the legal process. However the St. Paul City Attorney's Office dismissed the charges against him July 31.

The Pioneer Press said St. Paul City Attorney Sara Grewing explained the decision to dismiss the case Wednesday.

"Our job is not to second-guess the decision that officers on the streets make to maintain order and protect the public," Grewing said. "Our job as prosecutors is to determine whether those elements of a crime are present to prove to a jury, and we just didn't have that here."

He announced his intention to file a complaint and sue the city last week.

“I want to see cops really answer for how they treat people,” Lollie told the Star Tribune. “My civil rights were violated.”

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman has asked the city’s Police-Civilian Internal Affairs Review Commission to do a full review of the incident. Coleman said he had a "productive" meeting with African-American community leaders about the incident Monday afternoon.

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