Police confront black man picking up trash on his own property

Police confront black man picking up trash on his own property
Vanardo Merchant/Youtube via CNN
A still from a bystander's video shows Boulder police officers and the man they confronted.

The Boulder Police Department has launched an internal investigation after an encounter between a group of officers and a black man was captured on video and circulated online.

The video, which was published on YouTube and on social media, was filmed on the morning of March 1 in Boulder, Colorado. It shows a man with a bucket and a long item in a front yard of a townhouse complex. An officer appears to be talking to the man and has his hand on his hip.

“He’s picking up trash,” the person filming says repeatedly, as the man and the officer exchange words at a distance. “He lives here,” the person filming says. The officer is then joined by other officers and the man and the officers appear to be yelling at each other. The video ends with all the officers walking away.

Three days later, the Boulder Police Department released a statement that recounted officers’ version of events and announced an internal affairs investigation.

“A Boulder police officer observed a man sitting in a partially enclosed patio area directly behind a ‘Private Property’ sign and initiated contact with the man to determine if he was allowed to be on the property,” the department said.

After the man said he was a resident of the property and provided ID, the incident continued.

“The officer detained the man to investigate further and made a request over the radio for additional assistance to respond, indicating that the person was uncooperative and unwilling to put down a blunt object.”

The “blunt object” was determined to be a grabber used to pick up trash, something the person filming the video stated several times.

“Officers ultimately determined that the man had a legal right to be on the property and returned the man’s school identification card,” the release concluded. “All officers left the area and no further action was taken.”

In recent months, instances of civilians and police confronting black citizens have attracted national attention, and it didn’t take long for the incident in Boulder to spark ire in the community. On Tuesday evening, the Boulder City Council Meeting was filled with angry and concerned citizens demanding answers.

“This is a very concerning issue, and one we’re taking very seriously,” Police Chief Greg Testa told the crowd. “All aspects of this incident, specifically the actions of the initial officer, are being investigated.”

Testa also pushed back on the assertion that the officers had their guns drawn during the encounter.

“In contrast to what was stated in the video that is on social media, body worn camera video indicates that only one officer had a handgun out, and it was pointed at the ground,” he said. “I’m not making excuses, I’m just trying to provide some needed context in terms of that specific aspect.”

Testa said the investigation could take months, and the officer at the center of the incident has been placed on administrative leave.