Police in Colorado say they were justified in aggressively arresting a teenager for rolling a joint on a bus bench Friday – slamming him to the ground and applying pressure behind his ear in what they call a “pain compliance technique” – in an incident caught on video that is quickly going viral.
However, they could have easily just written him a citation under Colorado’s liberal marijuana laws that went into effect last year that allow possession of up to one ounce for adults 21 and over.
It is still illegal for minors to possess marijuana and illegal to consume marijuana in public.
But does it require three adult males to manhandle a 16-year-old boy, including a uniformed cop, an off-duty cop and a firefighter where the teen in screaming in agonizing pain?
Aspen police say yes because there were various “risk factors” involved, including the student happened to be near a school campus as well as a busy public road.
But witnesses say police went completely overboard in how they handled the situation and the video seems to back up their assertions.
The teen’s name has not been released.
When (officer) Loudon first made contact with the student and asked him what he had in his hand, the student did not reply and then put something under his shirt sleeve, Consuegra said.
Loudon, who declined to be interviewed for this story, also noticed the scent of cannabis on the student, according to Consuegra.
“He had enough (evidence) to believe he’s in possession of marijuana,” Consuegra said.
At that point, Loudon attempted to place the student under arrest. The student pulled away, but Loudon, who was initially acting alone, placed one handcuff on the suspect. The student then tried to pull away from Loudon, who restrained him against a wall inside the bus shelter and called for backup, police said.
“He wasn’t responding to the officer’s basic requests,” Consuegra said.
Roughly three minutes after Loudon placed a call for backup, off-duty police officer Chip Seamans and Aspen firefighter Ken Josselyn arrived. The two aided Loudon in his takedown of the student, who was not armed and did not exhibit violent behavior, Pryor said.
Pryor also noted that there were numerous risk factors in the area that played into Loudon’s decision to handle the situation like he did. The incident was near a busy public road and in close proximity to the campus, which includes elementary, middle and high schools.
“It ended up being an appropriate response based on the individual’s resistance,” Pryor said.
The video obtained by The Aspen Times begins with Loudon inside the bus shelter.
“OK, I got him,” Loudon says.
“Please leave me alone!” the suspect yells.
“I haven’t done anything illegal!” the student screams as he is on the ground and Seamans applies pressure behind his ear.
“Stop resisting, buddy. You’ve got to stop resisting,” one of the three arresting authorities says.
Meanwhile, nearby observers, purportedly students, ask the officers to stop.
“If he said he didn’t do anything, why can’t you just talk to him?” one says. “This is bulls—; he didn’t do anything!” another one yells. Another onlooker says: “If this isn’t excessive, I don’t know what is.”
Several students who witnessed the incident reached out to the Aspen Times and told the newspaper that police walked up to the teen and attempted to arrest him without explaining why.
Towards the end of the video, multiple cops come speeding up with wailing sirens, rushing out to the scene to partake in placing their knees on the handcuffed teen who is lying facedown on the ground.
The video appears edited in a couple of instances, as if the camera turned off and on, but maybe that is just a glitch. Or perhaps it’s one video made from two that were apparently recorded.
But whomever edited the video also felt the need to blur the faces of the individuals involved, which is highly distracting and prevents us from seeing their pain-compliance techniques they were using as they pressed his face into the ground.
The new marijuana laws went into effect January 1, 2014. One year later, the Denver Post reported that police have mostly been issuing citations to those violating the law, mainly to minors or those consuming marijuana in public.
And many of those citations were complaint-based. The actual arrests they have made stemmed from the suspect having a warrant, being involved in some other crime or possessing much more than the legal amount.
But this teen did not fall into any of those categories.
Call the Aspen Police Department at (970) 920-5400.