Sammie Lawrence, the black man Boulder police arrested April 5 while he was using a cane and filming an officer interacting with a group of homeless people, told Boulder City Council on Tuesday to demand the incident be taken seriously and that police be held accountable.

Boulder County Sheriff's Office, Courtesy photo
Sammie Lawrence

His voice filled with emotion, Lawrence told council members the incident marked many “firsts” for him.

“My first time getting my brain rattled by an officer,” he said. “My first time an officer told me to put down my weapon after I told him it was a walking aid.”

Lawrence’s arrest gained attention in the community and came on the heels of an incident in which officers confronted a black Naropa University student, Zayd Atkinson, while he was picking up trash. That incident provoked a large community response, including protests; drew national attention; and caused the city to contract an independent review by former U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer and to explore the creation of a police oversight task force at the request of community members.

On April 5, Boulder Officer Waylon Lolotai was doing extra patrols near 30th Street and Mapleton Avenue when he reported seeing three transients and approached them and asked for ID, according to a police report. Lawrence approached while recording the interaction and carrying “a large staff” in his hand, which he said he uses to help him walk and balance due to problems he has with seizures.