FORT COLLINS, Colo. — After a parent on a campus tour of Colorado State University called police to express concern about two Native American students who joined the tour, the university on Friday released body camera footage and the audio of the call to police.
A boys’ mother said she believes her sons were the victims of racial profiling.
Thomas Kanewakeron Gray, 19, and his brother Lloyd Skanahwati Gray, 17, had driven to CSU from New Mexico. Their trip to their “dream” university was interrupted when a parent called campus police because she was nervous when the brothers joined the tour, according to a letter sent out by CSU.
The caller, whom campus police did not identify, was joined by her son and her husband on the tour. She called dispatch to express concern after the two young men joined the tour late.
They were acting strangely, she told the dispatcher. They wouldn’t share their names, and the woman said she believed they weren’t being honest when she asked what they wanted to study. She told dispatch their clothing had dark symbols on it.
“One of them had his left hand in his oversized sweatshirt the whole time,” the woman said. “I’m probably being completely paranoid with everything that’s happened.”
The dispatcher asked if they were white males.
“I think they’re Hispanic,” the woman said. “One said he’s from Mexico.”
When campus police arrived, they approached the young men and checked their pockets.
Police explained to them that someone on the tour had called police after the pair arrived late and did not respond to questions. The two confirmed they were late and explained their silence as simply being shy.
Police asked to see their IDs. Only one of the teens had his handy, and he showed it to an officer. The pair offered to show a confirmation email from CSU, and police waited while one of the teens’ produced it, after struggling for a WiFi connection.
“Sorry to take you away from the group,” one officer said. “Have a good rest of your day.”
When Officer Lance Hoisington asked why they declined to give their names, the boys said they were shy, according to the police report and body cam footage.
According to the report, Hoisington explained that if the two would have given their names when asked and explained why they were late, no one would have found them to be suspicious.
Dispatch later forwarded Hoisington a message from the boys’ mother in which she said she was upset and felt her boys were being racially profiled, according to the report.
“I explained to her that law enforcement is obligated to follow up on any call that we receive and that the reporting party was suspicious because of the boys’ actions alone, Hoisington wrote in the report.
The encounter reminded Lorraine Kahneratokwas Gray, the boys’ mother, of several national instances where police officers shot and killed unarmed African-American men, she wrote in a Facebook post.
Gray told the AP she believes her sons were victims of racial profiling and she feared for their safety after learning about the encounter.
When the boys called to tell her what happened, she told them to “leave immediately,” according to the post. “I felt they had been the victim of racism and that they weren’t safe there.”
“I am lucky my sons are both alive,” Gray wrote.
Colorado State said Friday it is inviting the brothers back to the school and will pick up the tab for them and their family.
Mike Hooker, spokesman for the university, wrote in an email to the Coloradoan that CSU plans to improve how it manages campus tours.
The brothers’ ordeal marks the latest in a series of incidences nationwide spotlighting treatment minorities often face in everyday circumstances, including the arrest of two black men at a Starbucks in Philadelphia who were handcuffed and taken to jail after a worker said they had refused to buy anything or leave.
Contributing: The Associated Press