DENVER (AP) — Colorado State University is inviting two Native American teenagers pulled from a campus tour by police back to the school, saying it will pick up the tab for them to travel there for a VIP tour with their family.
The school also Friday released body camera footage showing two police officers searching the teens’ pockets and recordings of two phone calls made to police by a woman who described the teens’ behavior as “really odd” but also said she may be “paranoid.”
The school said it would refund the money the brothers 19-year-old Thomas Kanewakeron Gray and his 17-year-old brother, Lloyd Skanahwati Gray spent to travel to the school for last Monday’s tour.
“We deeply regret the unwelcoming and concerning experience they had while guests on our campus,” said the university, which says it is reviewing how a similar incident can be avoided or handled differently in the future.
Thomas Kanewakeron Gray said police stopped him and his brother while the tour group was inside a gymnasium He described the officers’ questioning as aggressive.
The video footage shows the brothers — one wearing a T-shirt and the other a hooded sweatshirt — walking in a group and down a set of stairs when an officer approaches them and directs them to step aside, saying he and another officer — who is not visible in the video — are going to check the teens’ pockets.
The younger of the two brothers has his hands in his pockets, and police officers ask them to take them out.
At first, the officer visible in the video asks the Grays short, focused questions, including whether the brothers were part of the tour group and why they didn’t “cooperate” when others asked them their names.
“The reason we stopped you and talked to you is because someone from the group called and said you guys just kind of came into the group,” the officer said. “They also said they tried to ask you guys questions and you didn’t want to answer questions.”
The older teen quickly responds, explaining that they had arrived late for the tour and that his younger brother is shy. The younger teen offers to retrieve the email confirming their reservations on the tour.
“Yeah, yeah, do that, and then we’ll get you out of here,” the officer shown in the video said.
The officer adds: “People were just worried because you guys were real quiet and they didn’t know who you were because you guys didn’t show up with parents or any of that stuff,” the officer says to the teens.
By then, however, their tour group had moved on without them and the brothers left the campus in Fort Collins, a city of about 161,000 65 miles (105 kilometers) north of Denver, and returned home to New Mexico.
“I think it’s pretty discriminatory,” 19-year-old Thomas Kanewakeron Gray said Thursday. “Me and my brother just stayed to ourselves the whole time. I guess that was scaring people; that we were just quiet.”
According to the recording, the caller told a dispatcher that the teens arrived late in the tour and wouldn’t respond to questions about their names or what they wanted to study at the school.
“They are not, definitely not, a part of the tour,” said the woman, identified in a police report as a 45-year-old white woman from Colorado. “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 ask them what they were wanting to study, like everything they were saying, they were lying the whole time.”
The woman also repeatedly told the dispatcher that her concern could be “completely paranoid” and apologized “if it’s nothing.”
Other than saying the teens were wearing all black clothing with “dark stuff on it,” the caller did not physically describe them until questioned by the dispatcher. She described their clothing as having a “weird symbolism or wording on it.”
It appears at least one of the brothers was wearing a T-shirt for a death metal band called Cattle Decapitation. On its Facebook page, the band offered the teens “free guest list spots to our shows for life.”
The caller’s name was redacted in the police report, along with the teenagers’ names.
The teens’ mother, Lorraine Gray, said Friday that the family has received apologetic messages from the university and is aware of its offer to return to the school for a VIP tour. However, she said they are not ready to respond, given that she and her sons have not had the opportunity to fully discuss the situation.
The younger son is a senior at Santa Fe Indian School, which is about a 30-minute drive from the family home and where he stays in a dorm during the week with other Native American students from tribes across the United States. He returned to the school early Tuesday morning, just hours after he and his older brother arrived home from their Colorado trip.
The older brother is currently a student at Northern New Mexico College in Espanola and hoped to transfer.
The siblings saved until they had enough money to drive the roughly seven hours from the family’s home in Santa Cruz, New Mexico to Fort Collins for the tour.
The older brother said the school was their first choice, because of its proximity to Denver, where they could attend concerts. The brothers, both Mohawk, are musicians, and study contemporary and traditional music.
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.
Hudetz reported from Albuquerque, New Mexico