BOULDER, Colo. — FOX31 has obtained the body camera footage of an April 5th arrest that led the Boulder City Council to ask for an independent review. The video shows the arrest of 26-year old Sammie Lawrence by Boulder Police Officer Waylon Lolotai.
The Problem Solvers have previously reported Lolotai was a Denver Sheriff Deputy who quit the department in June of 2016 while under investigation for an excessive force allegation involving an inmate. A month later he began employment as a Boulder Police Officer.
Last month, Lolotai and the Boulder Police Department were sued by Kelly Clark for excessive force over a July 2018 incident where she says Lolotai pushed her backwards onto concrete pavement in an episode similar to the incident captured on surveillance video at the Denver Detention Center.
In the Sammie Lawrence arrest, Lolotai initially responds to a city park to question homeless people about trash. Lawrence can soon be seen on Officer Lolotai’s body cam walking over with the aide of walking aid to observe.
The body cam captures the following interaction;
Officer Lolotai: “Hey you back up.”
Sammie Lawrence: “I am sitting right here observing.”
Officer Lolotai: “Put the stick down and back up.”
Sammie Lawrence: “I am not putting down my Walking Aid sir.”
Lawrence decides to film with his cell phone and Lolotai repeatedly tells Lawrence to back up, “Hey man I`m not going to tell you again or you`re going to jail for Obstruction, you understand me?”
Lawrence does not back up but calmly informs the officer his walking aid (which looks like a 5-foot long wooden stick with a dragon head for a staff) is not a weapon.
Officer Lolotai: “Put the stick down man.”
Sammie Lawrence: “I’m not putting my walking aid down sir, this is a stressful situation. I have stress that triggers seizures.”
Officer Lolotai: “Move way from me.”
When other officers arrive on scene, Lolotai gives Sammie Lawrence a final warning, “I`m just asking you to do it (film ) from over there?” And Lawrence responds, “I can step back a little but I`m not going to be doing it from all the way over there cause I want to gather everything that I can.”
Out of patience, Officer Lolotai can be seen approaching Sammie Lawrence, kicking his walking aid away and arresting Lawrence who screams ,”This is my walking aid sir, this is my walking aid sir, sir this is my waking aide sir you are harassing me,” before being tackled to the ground and handcuffed.
“The body camera footage is definitely disturbing,” said Lawrence’s attorney Mari Newman, before adding, “All that Sammie is trying to do is maintain the peace and make sure the Boulder Police are being documented as they are harassing people for no reason whatsoever.”
The city attorney for Boulder has previously said the arrest was lawful because Sammie Lawrence ignored repeated warnings to back away.
But Boulder’s City Council has asked former U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer to review the Sammie Lawrence case just like Troyer did in the Zayd Atkinson case. In the Atkison incident a Boulder Officer name John Smyly ultimately resigned for stopping an African-American college student pickup trash with a litter tool outside his dormitory on March 1, 2019.
After an internal investigation Boulder Police found there was no racial profiling but that Officer Smyly violated “Police Authority and Public Trust,” and he also violated a department conduct rule by not using “reasonable judgment” and did not “refrain from conduct which reflects unfavorably on the department…”
In the Sammie Lawrence case, his attorney Mari Newman finds it implausible that Officer Lolotia could consider Lawrence’s walking aid to be a weapon, “The officer could not have had any reasonable fear that Sammie was going to use his stick as a weapon. Sammie never moved forward, he never took an aggressive stance, he never used an aggressive tone, he was calm, cool, collected and peaceful the entire time.”
After Lawrence was arrested, he was taken to a local hospital with knee abrasions and can be seen on Officer Lolotia’s body cam haveinga non-epileptic seizure. On the video, Lawrence screams, “Help, help me.”
A male nurse responds, “Sammie you can’t talk and have a seizure at the same time, it’s not physically possible.”
Newman says Lawrence suffers from a traumatic brain injury and uses his walking aide to combat stressful episodes, “He`s got a seizure disorder and he needs that walking stick in order to walk and he says that over and over calmly.”
Lawrence has a court appearance in Mid-June on a charge of obstructing a peace officer.
Boulder Police say former U-S Attorney Bob Troyer continues to review the case and has no timeline for when he hopes to complete his investigation.
In an email, Officer Lolotai’s wife Melissa Lolotai told FOX31 her husband did not use excessive force against Lawrence and pointed out Lolotai asked Sammie to back up a dozen times before arresting him.