Attorney: Aspen High School teen in takedown arrest wasn’t rolling joint
The 16-year-old Aspen High School student whose Friday arrest has divided the community over policing tactics feels remorseful about his behavior but wasn’t committing a crime when an officer approached him, an attorney said Wednesday.
Aspen lawyer Ryan Kalamaya represents the student who faces charges of resisting arrest and underage possession of marijuana. Kalamaya said while “my client should have been more respectful,” he also questioned whether officer Adam Loudon had probable cause to arrest the teen. That’s because he wasn’t rolling a joint as police have alleged, Kalamaya claimed.
“I am unaware of any legal reason why the arrest had to happen,” he said. “There’s no doubt that once he made that choice (to make an arrest), my client should have acted differently, but to get to that choice is something that we’re looking into.”
Kalamaya said police seized a small amount of marijuana from the student’s backpack. But there doesn’t appear to be evidence suggesting he was rolling a joint.
“My understanding is that there is not evidence that he had (rolling) papers or that he was rolling a joint,” the attorney said.
Kalamaya said the student reacted in the manner he did because he was confused why Loudon had approached him.
Police have said that Loudon was patrolling the Maroon Creek Road around the noon hour Friday when he spotted the student rolling a joint at a public bus stop. He denied twisting a joint and became combative with Loudon, who was patrolling solo and called for back-up. Shortly later, an off-duty police officer and firefighter aided Loudon in arresting the suspect, who screamed as authorities took him to the ground and applied pain-pressure techniques below his ear. Nearby students video-recorded the incident, which went viral on social media and sparked a debate in the community about whether the arrest was valid or constituted police brutality.
Police Chief Richard Pryor has stood by Loudon, and said he couldn’t discuss details of the case because it involves a juvenile.
“Obviously in conducting that investigation, we felt like we had the ability to proceed with an arrest,” he said, noting the case now is in the hands of the Pitkin County branch of the 9th Judicial District Attorney’s Office. Pitkin County prosecutor Andrea Bryan could not be immediately reached Wednesday.
Kalamaya said he has met with Bryan and a plea deal is being discussed. The teen’s first court appearance is scheduled for Tuesday. He does not have a criminal background, Kalamaya said. “I don’t think it’s going to be litigated, and I have expressed my concerns to Andrea and Richard Pryor about the circumstances leading to the arrest.”
Kalamaya said the high school suspended the student and he hasn’t been at school since he last attended Monday.
He said a full-length video exists that “raises more questions than answers.”
“He knows he was rude and was disrespectful, and he apologizes for that,” Kalamaya said. “But under the circumstances, I think that everyone can understand where he’s coming from, in the sense that his position is the officer asked him to show his hands and he says he did show his hands, and he was not rolling a joint and the officer tried to arrest him.”
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