Police Draw Guns On Black Man Picking Up Trash At His Own House

by Valerie Williams
Image via Facebook/Vinardo Merchant

Boulder Police confronted an unarmed black man who was picking up trash in the yard at his own home

Another day, another story of a black person being harassed by police for absolutely no reason at all. This time, guns were drawn on a black man who was just picking up trash in his own yard last Friday morning.

Thanks to neighbor Vanardo Merchant, part of the exchange between the officers and the man, literally in his own yard picking up garbage, was caught on video. Merchant shared the footage on Facebook where it quickly went viral. He explains that the man was “..picking up garage outside of our home and 8 police officers pull up on him with guns threading to shot him telling him to put down the ‘weapon’ {a bucket & garbage claps}.”

The video clearly shows the man trying to explain to police officers that he lives in the building — and doesn’t have a weapon. That didn’t stop Boulder Police Department officers from insisting the man produce his school identification.

“You’re on my property with a gun in your hand, threatening to shoot me, because I’m picking up trash,” the man tells the officers. “I don’t have a weapon. This is a bucket. This is a clamp.” He can be heard telling them, “I’m not sitting down. I’m not sitting down, and you can’t make me.”

A statement from the Boulder Police Department explains that the responding officer radioed for assistance stating that the man was being uncooperative and “unwilling to put down a blunt object.”

A tool to pick up trash. That was the “blunt object”.

According to the viral post, a total of eight officers responded to the call. For one man picking up trash in his yard.

The Daily Camera reports that area residents attended a Boulder City Council meeting this week where some carried trash grabbers, holding them up and clacking them as Police Chief Greg Testa explained what happened between the officers and the innocent man cleaning up his yard. “This is an extremely concerning issue, and one that we are taking very seriously,” Testa told the assembled group.

The man is a student at Naropa University where Charles Lief is president. Lief attended the city council meeting in defense of the man and voiced his concerns regarding racist incidents in the community. “Students, staff and faculty of color at Naropa, and other institutions, have all experienced various degrees of racism living in this community,” he told the group.

“I do not want to underestimate the amount of trauma that was experienced by our student, who was the victim in this situation,” Lief said.

The news is, sadly, full of similar stories of black people going about their business before a white person calls the police — or the police decide to question a black person for no good reason, as was the case with this latest incident. A white librarian recently summoned police because a black student was there studying. A black man babysitting two white kids got a visit from police after a white woman called the police. The behavior and assumptions made are 100 percent unacceptable — and could end in the loss of lives.

Eventually, responding officers figured out that this was indeed the unarmed man’s own home where he had every right to pick up trash and left the area. Boulder Police have put the initial responding officer on paid administrative leave until an investigation into the incident is complete.

The results of the investigation, which will be sent to a professional standards review panel made up of six Boulder officers and six community members, won’t be complete for another 60-90 days. They will be presented to the chief of police who will make a recommendation on what action (if any) should be taken.