911 Call, Body Camera Footage Shed Light On Alleged Racial Profiling Incident At CSU
Colorado State University Police have released body camera footage and a recording of a 911 call from an alleged racial profiling incident on campus earlier this week.
The two recordings, released Friday, offer a glimpse into how a call from a nervous parent resulted in the temporary detention of two Native American men and prospective CSU students. The young men, 17 and 19, were eventually released after officers patted them down, questioned them and asked to see electronic proof of their tour registration.
In the 911 call, an unidentified woman, who was on the April 30 campus tour with her son, said she felt "completely paranoid" but had to call to report the young men because of "everything that's happened." She went on to describe the two students' behavior.
"They just really stand out," she said. "Their clothing has dark stuff on it - like, their face."
"The clothing what?" the dispatcher asked.
"Just, uh, kind of this weird symbolism or wording on it," the woman said. "One of them has their left hand in his oversized sweatshirt the whole time."
Thomas Kanewakeron Gray, 19, and Skanahwati Lloyd Gray, 17, were brothers who had made the drive to Fort Collins from their home in Santa Cruz, New Mexico, for a campus visit. They're also Mowhawk from the Akwesasne Mowhawk Reservation in upstate New York.
The two had shown up late to the tour and were acting quiet and suspicious, according to the caller.
In the body camera footage, two CSU police officers, Lance Hoisington and Brian James are shown approaching the tour group. As the group makes its way down a set of stairs inside an unspecified building on campus, the video shows the two officers detaining the two unaccompanied teenagers.
"Can you pull your hand out of your pocket, please?" one officer says.
The officers questioned the brothers for about 5 minutes before releasing them. The two missed the remainder of their tour, then returned home to New Mexico.
Lorraine Kahneratokwas Gray, the men's mother, wasn't on the tour herself. She said an officer yelled at her 17-year-old when he tried to reach in his pockets, but the video does not show the officers raising their voices.
Regardless, Gray on Friday said she and her family was still shocked and processing the incident, which she called racial profiling.
"It could have ended in a much more tragic way," Gray said. "Which we already know we've seen happen around the country with young men of color being shot to death for reaching for their driver's license or telephone."
The school's Office of Admissions, Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Native American Cultural Center and the CSU Police Department are meeting to review how to avoid or handle something like this in the future, according to a letter sent to students on Wednesday, but it did not specify when that meeting would take place.
"The fact that these two students felt unwelcome on our campus while here as visitors runs counter to our principles of community and the goals and aspirations of the CSU Police Department, even as they are obligated to respond to an individual's concern about public safety," the letter said.
It was signed by Leslie Taylor, vice president for enrollment and access, Mary Ontiveros, vice president for diversity, and Dr. Blanche Hughes, vice president for student affairs.
The school said it had reached out to the two students' family.
"As a University community, we deeply regret the experience of these students while they were guests on our campus," the letter said.
On Friday, the University, in a series of tweets, apologized again. It said it had reached out directly to the family and their high school and would like the opportunity to speak with them.
"We will refund any expenses they incurred traveling to CSU," the tweet read.
The university has also offered to pay for the family to return for an all-expenses-paid VIP tour, if they're willing.
Gray said she and her sons hadn't decided whether they would take the offer.
[Updated May 7, 2018, 12:12 pm] CSU President Tony Frank, in a letter to his staff ahead of finals week, tried to look forward from the incident.
“What can we learn from this experience?” he wrote. “It seems to me that we can all examine our conscience about the times in our own lives when we’ve crossed the street, avoided eye contact, or walked a little faster because we were concerned about the appearance of someone we didn’t know but who was different from us. That difference often, sadly, includes race.”
In the letter, Frank outlined several potential changes to the management of campus tours. The ideas include some type of badges or lanyards for tour guests, new campus police protocol by which officers will make tour guides aware if they ever need to interact with a tour participant, and incorporating new language into tour guide introductions.
"These are obviously small steps aimed at parts of the etiology of this specific incident,” Frank said. “But they reflect the deep concern and commitment shared by our Admissions team, CSUPD, and the University administration to prevent something like this from happening again.”