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Newest crime? Touring college while Native American


I don’t often yell at my computer, but I did Friday night when I read a news account of the detainment of two teen brothers of Native American descent on a tour of Colorado State University. 

A white woman on the tour with her own child ducked out for a moment to call campus police because Thomas Gray, 19, and Lloyd Gray, 17, who arrived late after getting lost on the campus, did not respond to her questions about their backgrounds, kept to themselves and were “creepy.”

That was enough to cause campus police to yank the flabbergasted brothers from the tour, question them and pat them down. I posted news accounts of the incident on AJC Get Schooled Facebook Friday where most commenters shared my dismay. 

“This is ridiculous. Those kids didn’t have to answer any of her questions. She was not the tour guide. Heck they probably felt that she was creeping them out,” said one reader.

I found the transcript of the woman’s 911 call, which I also posted. Colorado State University also released the bodycam video from its police officers in which the young men appear compliant and polite, but uncomfortable and bewildered. By the time police realized they were legitimate students registered for the tour, the tour group had moved on and the humiliated young men called their mother and then drove the seven hours home. 

The relevant facts – the 911 call and the police response -- are troubling, which the president of Colorado State University acknowledged in a long letter he wrote following the release Friday of the 911 call and the bodycam video. 

CSU President Tony Frank wrote:

The tour incident and its implications have troubled and angered many of us on campus as well as many of our alumni and people with no connection to CSU. The emotions released have ranged from sadness to frustration to anger, all flowing from a reservoir of sympathy created by imagining ourselves or our children in this situation. This empathy unmasks the fundamental unfairness at play, and creates a cognitive dissonance with who we are and who we aspire to be. The resounding theme expressed to our office has been that people want to ensure we are reaching out to the young men and doing what we can to make things right. This is absolutely the University’s goal. Vice President for Enrollment and Access Leslie Taylor and I have both tried to contact the family through various means, and we have so far not been successful. Our hope is to speak with the family of the young men and to, at a minimum, reimburse their expenses and offer them another opportunity to visit our campus as VIP guests if they have any interest in doing so. At this point, we are attempting to make that contact through social media as we have not been successful through other means.

Earlier this morning, I and some others were able to view the body cam footage of our police interaction with these students. Rather than trying to describe what I see through my own set of lenses, I’ll simply offer that the footage is now publicly available, as is the police report of the incident at https://safety.colostate.edu/

Two young men, through no fault of their own, wound up frightened and humiliated because another campus visitor was concerned about their clothes and overall demeanor, which appears to have simply been shyness. The very idea that someone – anyone – might “look” like they don’t belong on a CSU Admissions tour is anathema. People of all races, gender identities, orientations, cultures, religions, heritages, and appearances belong here. As long as you want to earn a great education surrounded by people with the same goal who come from every part of our state, our country, and our world, then you belong here. And if you’re uncomfortable with a diverse and inclusive academic environment, then you probably have a better fit elsewhere.

I am sharing the 911 transcipt and bodycam video here, so you can see exactly how this unfolded. First the transcript of the call that led police to pull the brothers off the tour: 

Dispatch: CSU police, this is Ginger. 

Caller: Hi ... I am with my son doing a campus tour ... There are two young men that joined our tour that weren't a part of our tour. They're not, definitely not a part of the tour. And their behavior is just really odd, and I've never called, ever, about anybody, but they joined our tour. They won't give their names and when I asked them what they were wanting to study, like everything they're saying isn't ... they were lying the whole time. And they're just wearing like very ... they just really stand out. ... Like their clothing has dark stuff on it, like dark things. 

Dispatch: Their clothing what? 

Caller: Just, uh, kind of just weird symbolism or wording on it, and one of them has their left hand in his oversize sweatshirt the whole time. 

Dispatch: Are you guys still out with them now? 

Caller: Well, I'm not. I stepped out. They're in the Lory Student Center. 

(Dispatcher and caller talk about the pair's location information) 

Caller: It's probably nothing. I'm probably being completely paranoid with just everything that's happened ... 

(Dispatcher and caller continue to talk about location information) 

Caller: I feel completely ridiculous. They're probably fine and just creepy kids. 

Dispatch: It's fine. We certainly don't mind you calling. I'd rather you call and us and check on it and everything check out OK. 

(Dispatch waits while the caller texts her husband for location information) 

Caller: If it's nothing, I'm sorry, but they, it actually made me feel, like, sick, and I've never felt like that. 

Dispatch: Can you give me a description of the males? Starting with one of them. 

Caller: I'm 5-5. They're not much taller than I am so maybe 5-7. One has, like, above his shoulder length hair and it's wavy, split in the middle. They both are wearing like black clothing. 

Dispatch: Are they white males? 

Caller: I think they're Hispanic, I believe. One of them for sure. He said he's from Mexico. When I asked what they were wanting to study I could tell they were making stuff up because one of them started to laugh about it. One is heavier. One is probably 5-7 and, you know, thinner, I don't know maybe 130-40 pounds. 

Dispatcher: Can you give me a clothing description on that person? 

Caller: They both are wearing black. 

Dispatcher: OK. All black? 

Caller: Mm-hmm. ... 

(Call gets disconnected due to incoming call. Recording continues when woman calls back after getting disconnected. The caller and dispatcher continue to talk about he group's location.) 

Caller: (My husband) said another dad, also, another man that was on the tour also believes they don't belong. Their behavior is very suspicious so they're watching them also. 

(Caller and dispatcher talk about location.) 

Caller: And I know I'm probably just being paranoid. I've never done this before. 

Dispatch: Well, the fact that more than one person noticed the strange behavior ... 

 

Here is the police bodycam video: 


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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.