The video of an Aspen High School student being roughly taken to the ground by multiple law enforcers might have stirred controversy no matter the offense for which he was arrested. But the fact that his bust was prompted by him allegedly rolling a joint has upped the outrage of some observers, even as the town's police chief argues that authorities did nothing wrong. Get details and see the clip below.
According to the Aspen Times, the incident took place during the noon hour on Friday, February 6. Around that time, Aspen Police Officer Adam Loudon saw a thus-far-unidentified student rolling a marijuana joint at a bus stop not far from Aspen High, in an area where drug use among the school's attendees has become a subject of concern for authorities.
The paper reports that after approaching the student, Loudon asked him what he had in his hand. The student is said to have responded by hiding an object under the sleeve of his shirt.
A moment later, Loudon tried to make an arrest, but the student resisted after the officer managed to get one cuff on him. In response, Loudon called for backup, and before long, off-duty police officer Chip Seamans and Aspen firefighter Ken Josselyn arrived to help him.
At about this point, the video begins. The clip has been cut, and a commenter on the Aspen Times site maintains that "they edited out the worst parts" from a version that reportedly circulated on Facebook. But what remains is plenty vivid. The student can be heard yelling hysterically as he's taken to the ground and handcuffed. His declarations include "I haven't done anything illegal!"
Meanwhile, other people on the scene can be heard adding their own comments. One person announces, "This is bullshit!" Another says, "If this isn't excessive, I don't know what is."
Does the student's extreme reaction to being arrested make what happened seem worse than it might have been otherwise? The student isn't struck, kicked or hurled violently, and the Times quotes one of the arresters as saying, "Stop resisting, buddy. You've got to stop resisting."
Presumably, these factors led Aspen Police Chief Richard Pryor (yes, that's his real name) to tell the Times that, in his view, Loudon and company acted appropriately. But a number of students who contacted the Times feel otherwise, including one who wrote, ""Many members of the Aspen community are outraged by the events that happened on Friday afternoon. If (you) ask any person who witnessed the event (they) will tell that it was a complete and total example of police brutality."
Comments on the article tend to be critical of the incident as well. Here's one reader's take:
What is extreme? Screaming in pain and fear while being physically assaulted by three grown, armed adults for doing nothing? doesn't seem at all extreme to me. In fact, being assaulted for rolling a joint is what seems extreme. but, Oh, it's for his own safety. What a crock of baloney.
In the meantime, Chief Pryor sent an e-mail to city officials that reads in part. "On the video there is a lot of movement and noise from shouting and claims of police abuse. At our internal first blush, it appears that the levels of force used were low & appropriate. We will review the whole incident. We have also reached out to the high school to make ourselves available."
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Here's the edited version of the video.
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.