Colorado Cop Resigns After Pulling Gun on Black Student Picking Up Trash Outside His Residence

Colorado police officer John Smyly who pulled his gun on Zayd Atkinson, a student at Naropa University picking up trash in front of his apartment building, has resigned.

In a statement released on Thursday, The city of Boulder announced that an investigation found that Smyly violated two police department policies:

“On March 1, Officer Smyly approached Zayd Atkinson, 26, at his residence to investigate a possible trespass. Mr. Atkinson was picking up trash on his property and had not committed a crime. The encounter led to allegations of racial profiling and police misconduct. While no one was arrested, the police department launched an internal affairs investigation, and the city hired an outside investigator to review the incident.”

The police department has also released all related body camera footage.

The city of Boulder said there’s “no evidence to support a claim of racial profiling,” but the incident makes one question why Smyly felt the need to even approach Atkinson?

The officer ‘decided to self-initiate contact with Mr. Atkinson’

According to the incident summary, the reason Smyly decided to monitor the student is that “he saw Mr. Atkinson manipulating an unknown object in his left hand as he held it close to his mouth,” prompting him to “drive closer to Mr. Atkinson to see what he was doing.”

However, the internal affairs investigation included a review of a video from a building-mounted camera, which revealed Atkinson was eating food and using his mobile phone.

John Smyly

“During his interview, the subject officer stated that at this point, he was unaware of Mr. Atkinson’s race, because he had only seen him from a distance and approached him from behind,” the incident summary states.

“As the subject officer got closer, he could also see that Mr. Atkinson was picking items up off the ground with the long metal object [a trash grabber] and placing them into a white bucket that he was holding. Mr. Atkinson was picking up trash.

“The subject officer then activated his body camera and decided to self-initiate contact with Mr. Atkinson to determine what he was doing and if he lived or worked there. The subject officer notified dispatch and initiated what he described as a consensual contact.”

Smyly asked Atkinson if he was permitted to be in the location. Atkinson told the officer that he lived in the building and showed him his school identification card. But Smyly kept insisting Atkinson tell him his unit number, wanting further proof that he lived there.

“Smyly updated dispatch that Mr. Atkinson was failing to comply and had a blunt metal object, referring to the trash grabber, in his hands,” the report states.

“Atkinson walked away, the subject officer followed from a distance. During this period, the subject officer repeatedly asked Mr. Atkinson to stop and advised him that he was obstructing a police officer. Mr. Atkinson raised his voice and yelled.”

Smyly said he felt “threatened by the trash grabber.” He drew his Taser “and later transitioned to his handgun, both weapons were pointed in a downward direction in front of the officer.”

“The subject officer said that he did not believe that the Taser would be effective, because Mr. Atkinson was wearing a heavy coat,” the summary states. “He drew his handgun after Mr. Atkinson stopped behind the building out of sight of the street. During this period, the officer was alone with Mr. Atkinson.”

‘I’m picking up trash and you’re holding a gun’

Zayd Atkinson

A cellphone video shot by a neighbor that went viral in March showed Smyly holding his weapon amid the confrontation. If it were not for that cellphone footage, would there have been an internal investigation?

“That’s a gun,” Zayd Atkinson said, according to the body camera footage. “I’m picking up trash. I’m picking up trash and you’re holding a gun.”

He asked Smyly if he would fire the weapon if he didn’t put the trash grabber down.

“If you use that weapon against me then yes, that is a consideration,” Smyly responded.

Atkinson was detained by Smyly for further investigation and he made a call for backup.

“All of the additional officers responding reported that they believed this to be a serious situation because of what they knew from the radio traffic,” the report states.

The officers arrived and later left after they determined Atkinson had the right to be there.

“I thought that once the firearm was out that that meant that he was going to try to kill me,” Atkinson said on “Good Morning America” in April. “It was a frightening experience. I didn’t know what else to do besides, you know, to fight with my voice and to practice my rights, which were thoroughly being breached.”

The city of Boulder stated, that “while the finding likely would have resulted in suspension or possibly termination, Officer Smyly resigned prior to the conclusion of the disciplinary process.”

John Smyly’s resignation agreement with the city was negotiated by City Attorney Tom Carr, who “explained that the resignation immediately removes Officer Smyly from law enforcement and prevents his reinstatement to the Boulder Police Department.”

Latest News

women in politics

Women Remain Vastly Underrepresented in Local Government, Despite Conventional Wisdom Suggesting Otherwise

Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi sat behind President Biden during his first speech to a joint session of Congress on April 28 — representing the first time two women held such important and high-ranking political offices. Even after such a historic moment, the reality…

voter restriction

Florida Follows Georgia’s Lead, Approves Racist Anti-Voter Restrictions Aimed Primarily at Democrats and People of Color

Not content with letting Georgia be the only state in the South demonized for its bigoted and racist attacks on voter rights, Florida has jumped into the fray in issuing its own series of new and highly controversial “Jim Crow-esque” anti-voting restrictions aimed specifically at disenfranchising Democrats and voters of…

Kentucky Derby

Inspired by Protests Over Breonna Taylor’s Death, Humana and Kentucky Derby Festival Launch Diversity and Inclusion Initiative in Louisville

Ahead of the 147th Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 1, Kentucky Derby officials and Humana (No. 25 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2020) have announced a new equity initiative meant to make the race more accessible and welcoming to everyone, regardless of race, gender, age…

crimes against human ity

‘Crime Against Humanity’; Global Report Says the US Should Be Prosecuted in International Criminal Court for Ongoing Police Murders of Black Americans

In what has been described as a “devastating” report, human rights experts and lawyers have investigated and released a 188-page analysis of the ongoing police brutality and killing of Black Americans in the U.S. Their verdict: the country is guilty of “crimes against humanity” and should be prosecuted for its…

Tokyo, Olympics

Tokyo Olympics to Encourage Significant Increase in Gender Equality Among Event’s Corporate Sponsors

Besides simply being a showcase for some of the most talented and athletic men and women on the planet, the organizers of the Tokyo Olympics are hoping their event this summer can also help promote significant change in corporate culture, both in Japan and around the globe. Bloomberg’s Ayai Tomisawa…

AbbVie Joins Over 400 Leading US Employers in the Human Rights Campaign’s ‘Business Coalition for the Equality Act’

Originally published on LinkedIn. AbbVie ranked No. 19 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2020.   AbbVie has joined a group of over 400 corporations and leading U.S. employers to support the Human Rights Campaign’s “Business Coalition for the Equality Act,” an initiative advocating for federal…

Accenture and Goodwill Develop Virtual Experience To Help People Impacted by the Criminal Justice System Enter the Workforce

Originally published at Accenture is ranked No. 5 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2020.   Goodwill Industries International has teamed with Accenture to develop an innovative virtual experience called Project Overcome. The experience is designed for people impacted by the criminal justice system who want to…