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Minnesota City Officials Apologize to Black Man After His Arrest While Walking Goes Viral

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A Minnesota town’s officials have publicly apologized to a black resident after a videotaped altercation last week between him and a plainclothes white police officer, as the man attempted to walk down the street, went viral.

The nearly seven-minute video, recorded by bystander Janet Rowle on Oct. 12, captured a frustrated Larnie Thomas, 34, being reprimanded by Lt. Tim Olson for walking in the middle of the street in Edina, Minnesota.

Thomas — who eventually explained that he was avoiding sidewalk construction — yelled at Olson, who was physically holding Thomas by his jacket.

“You can’t just put your hands on me,” Thomas said in the clip, before removing his shirt and jacket to break free of the officer’s grip. “I know my rights. It’s b——t and you know it.”

Thomas was eventually put under arrest by a second officer and charged with disturbing the peace.

Janet Rowles

“He’s scared sir,” Rowle told Lt. Olson in the clip. “It’s scary. You could have just very kindly shown him where to walk. You were the one who incited this. ”

Viewers agreed — causing uproar online. Among the reactions was a call from the NAACP Minneapolis for an independent investigation into the incident and to whether any department protocols, state laws, or civil rights and civil liberties were violated.

The NAACP asked that Olson be suspending without pay pending the investigation’s outcome and that Edina police begin collecting race and other demographic data during traffic stops to use in reforming its policies and procedures.

It was also suggested officers be retrained on implicit and explicit bias.

Edina Mayor James Hovland, city manager Scott Neal and police chief Dave Nelson responded to controversy on Monday, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. While they said officers “followed established protocol,” the officials agreed to work with the NAACP on data collection and training opportunities.

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Charges against Thomas were dropped, according to the Tribune. At a city council meeting Tuesday, he was issued a public apology. PEOPLE could not immediately reach him for comment.

“For Mr. Larnie Thomas, I’m going to meet him face-to-face,” Mayor Hoyland said at the hearing. “It’s one thing for me to sit up here and apologize, it’s another to meet him face-to-face.”

Edina residents of different races also gave emotional testimony at the hearing, about race relations in the wealthy Minneapolis suburb, ABC News reports. (Census figures say the town has a population that is 88 percent white and 3 percent black.)

Councilman Bob Stewart told the crowd, “I think we can do better” — and he promised to contact Thomas to try to make sure an incident like this didn’t happen again.