Two young Native American men were removed from a college campus tour after a parent complained that the boys made her “nervous.” Newly released body cam footage, screenshotted above, shows the teens calmly answering questions from police officers after being patted down and told to keep their hands visible.
The two prospective students were part of a group touring Colorado State University on Monday, CNN reports, when a parent of another prospective student on the tour called campus police because they made her “nervous.” The two boys — 17-year-old Lloyd Gray and 19-year-old Thomas Gray — were questioned by campus police and had to have their reservations confirmed before they were allowed to rejoin the tour, but by then the group had moved on without them.
What was the nature of the complaint? "They were lying the whole time," said the woman who complained that their dark clothing had "weird symbolism or wording on it," adding that they "just really stand out." The police report and audio, redacted to protect the identity of the caller, are now available.
Lorraine Kahneratokwas Gray, the boys’ mother, told KOAT that the teens had saved their own money and borrowed the family’s only car to take the seven-hour drive from their home state of New Mexico to Fort Collins, Colorado.
“This was their dream school, and I wanted to give them that opportunity,” Gray said. She received a frantic phone call from her older son that day telling her that “somebody called the police on us because we were quiet.” Gray believes the parent who called the police targeted her sons because of the way they look.
“They had to fabricate a little bit of some kind of fear for the police to come and frisk them and make them empty their pockets,” Gray said.
The school expressed regret over the situation in a campus email sent to employees and students on Wednesday, writing, “This incident is sad and frustrating from nearly every angle, particularly the experience of two students who were here to see if this was a good fit for them.”
“As a university community, we deeply regret the experience of these students while they were guests on our campus,” their statement continued. “The fact that these two students felt unwelcome on our campus while here as visitors runs counter to our principles of community.”
President Tony Frank wrote a lengthy apology on the campus blog, reiterating the campus' commitment to fighting hate, saying that people who were "uncomfortable" with diversity and inclusion "probably have a better fit elsewhere."
School officials have reached out to the students’ family. CSU’s admissions office, the Native American Cultural Center, the office of vice president for diversity, and CSU police will be working together to review how such situations can be more appropriately handled in the future, the Denver Post reports.
Colorado’s Lieutenant Governor Donna Lynne, who also serves as the chair of Colorado’s Commission on Indian Affairs, also expressed concern over the incident, CNN reports.
“We want to reiterate our commitment to ensuring our public universities are open and welcoming to all students and hope that the young men will not be deterred in their pursuit of attending college in Colorado, a traditional homeland to many tribal nations,” Lynne said.
The teens’ mother described the experience as heartbreaking.
“It breaks my heart, because they didn’t do anything to warrant that,” Gray told KOAT. “They’re walking on their own ancestors’ land, so it breaks my heart.”
Racial profiling continues to make national news in recent months. Just last week, a former White House staffer came face-to-face with police after neighbors saw him moving into his new apartment and called the police to report a burglary in progress.
[Photo: Screenshot from Colorado State University Police Department Footage]