Thomas Kanewakeron Gray, 19, and his 17-year-old brother Lloyd Skanahwati Gray saved up their money to drive seven hours from Santa Cruz, New Mexico, to Colorado State University in Fort Collins on Monday, taking the family’s only car so they could go on a college tour.
Shortly after they arrived late, police pulled the brothers from the group, CNN reported. The reason: the mother of another prospective student said they made her “nervous,” CNN said.
“I think it’s pretty discriminatory,” Thomas said on Thursday, according to the Associated Press. “Me and my brother just stayed to ourselves the whole time.”
Thomas said police stopped them while the admissions tour was inside a gymnasium on campus, the AP reported. He claimed the officers questioned them aggressively, patted them down and would not release the brothers until they proved that had reserved spots for the school tour. By then the tour group had moved on, the AP reported, and the boys returned to New Mexico.
In a Facebook post, the brothers’ mother, Lorraine Kahneratokwas Gray, gave more details about the incident.
“The officer patted down both of them, then asked my 17 year old … to empty his pockets,” Lorraine wrote, although she was not present at the time of the incident. “When he tried to do as the officer asked, he then yelled at my son to ‘keep your hands out of your pockets.’ Apparently this happened several times before my son finally said in frustration, ‘which one do you want me to do?’ “
University officials responded to the incident in a statement provided to PEOPLE.
“This incident is sad and frustrating from nearly every angle, particularly the experience of two students who were here to see if this was a good fit for them as an institution,” officials said in the address. “As a University community, we deeply regret the experience of these students while they were guests on our campus.”
In an interview with KOAT, Lorraine said Colorado State was her sons’ “dream school.”
“It breaks my heart, because they didn’t do anything to warrant that,” Lorraine told KOAT. “They’re walking on their own ancestors’ land, so it breaks my heart.”
The brothers are both Mohawk, according to the AP. Thomas is a student at Northern New Mexico College in Española and hoped to transfer to Colorado State, the AP reported. Lloyd is a senior at Santa Fe Indian School.
The incident comes shortly after two black men were arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks last month after being racially profiled. The men settled claims with the city for $1 and will work with the city and a nonprofit organization to fund a $200,000 grant to benefit high school students in the city, CNN reported.