BOULDER • A white Colorado policeman who drew his gun during a confrontation with a black man picking up trash around his dormitory resigned this week under a deal that allows him to earn $ 69,000 in wages despite the violation of departmental policies.
Police body camera footage released on Thursday provided a full video account of the tense encounter, which had gained national attention based on a video shot by someone in a student dormitory in Naropa University, a liberal arts school associated with Buddhism in the city of Boulder.
City officials said the investigation could not prove that the officer, John Smyly, acted because of Zayd Atkinson’s race. Investigators found that Smyly violated two departmental policies: police authority and public trust and conduct, the city attorney said.
“Boulder is basically saying we’re going to pay this officer and let him resign for threatening Zayd’s life, for racial profiling of Zayd,” said Atkinson attorney Siddhartha Rathod. “If you or I did that, we would be criminally charged. We would immediately lose our jobs.”
Smyly’s phone number could not be located on Thursday. He did not mention the incident in his resignation letter.
Smyly approached Atkinson on March 1 in front of the condo-style building, where he was using a metal tool with a claw at its base to put trash in a bucket, according to the new footage. Smyly said he noticed Atkinson on the back patio and wanted to see if he lived or worked there.
Atkinson said yes, and Smyly asked for an ID with the address on it. Atkinson provided his school ID, which did not have an address, and then offered to let himself into the building as proof.
Smyly asked for Atkinson’s date of birth. Atkinson refused, then picked up the bucket and tool and walked away.
“Put that down,” Smyly said on the tape. “Stop!”
He then told Atkinson that he was obstructing a police officer, “a throwaway offense.” Smyly later told Atkinson he was being held for trespassing.
Smyly pulled out his stun gun and followed Atkinson to the back of the building, repeatedly telling him to sit on the floor and put down the “gun”, referring to the trash tool. Atkinson has said repeatedly that he has done nothing wrong.
“Your hand is on your gun and you’re going to shoot me,” Atkinson shouted. “Is that what you are going to do, officer? Are you going to shoot a resident of his property for picking up trash?”
Smyly drew his gun when the two reached the back of the building, according to an investigative summary. On the video, Atkinson responds by shouting, “It’s a gun! I pick up trash! I pick up trash, and you hold a gun!”
After about eight minutes, more agents arrive and form a loose semicircle around Atkinson.
An officer can be seen holding a rifle; the summary of the investigation indicates that the weapon fires bean bags. An officer pulled out his handgun when he arrived, but repackaged it in less than a minute, while Smyly had his gun out until Atkinson put down the garbage collection tool, the summary said. .
The report released with the video said Smyly had no authority to detain Atkinson or any probable cause to charge him with a felony and should have left once Atkinson provided his name, address and reason for his arrest. presence.
Atkinson, 26, said he believed Smyly should have been fired immediately. He said he has trouble sleeping and spending time outdoors or with friends to calm him down.
“My life right now is pretty hectic, unstable,” he said.
City attorney Tom Carr said Smyly’s dismissal would have led to an endless appeal and potentially allowed him to keep his job.
Under the deal, Smyly stepped down as a police officer on May 9 but will remain an employee until February without doing any work. He will receive “proportional pay and benefits” during this period and “a one-time lump sum” for any accrued and unused vacation period when his employment officially ends on February 9.
Carr said the resignation agreement “allowed the city to provide information to the community more quickly and took Constable Smyly out of a career in law enforcement.” The city’s negotiation deal with police officers requires an appeal for any disciplinary action and could have allowed Smyly to return to duty, he added.