(FORT COLLINS, Colo.) — Two Native American teenage brothers visiting their “dream school” were questioned and patted down by campus police — after a suspicious parent who found them “creepy” called 911, according to the school.
The prospective students, who traveled from New Mexico, were on a tour of Colorado State University April 30 when authorities approached them at the school’s student rec center, according to the university. The police officers were summoned there after a concerned parent with children on the tour called 911, saying that the brothers “really stand out.”
That’s when the officers searched the brothers — identified as Thomas Kanewakeron Gray, 19, and Lloyd Skanahwati Gray, 17 — and asked them questions for about five minutes.
They were ultimately allowed to go and rejoin the tour.
But the boys’ mother, Lorraine Gray, told ABC station KOAT said the brothers — who had saved money and borrowed her car to visit their “dream school” — were singled out because of their race.
“All because some biased person judged my boys on how they looked,” Grey said.
Gray added that the school let her boys down.
“I entrusted my boys to their campus and they failed us miserably,” she said.
The incident comes just a few weeks after another incident in which two men had police called on them, apparently because of their appearance and race. On April 12, two black men were arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks when they sat inside the store and didn’t order anything.
The incident led to protests and apologies from the coffee chain and the city, and the men eventually settled with both.
At the university, the teens were approached by two officers, one of whom was wearing a body camera. The unidentified mother who called 911 said the brothers had refused to give their names and she thought they were “making stuff up” when she asked what they wanted to study, according to the university’s police report.
“I feel completely ridiculous,” she said on the 911 call. “They’re probably fine; they’re just creepy kids.”
According to the report, officers located the group at the CSU Student Rec Center. The officers are seen in the body camera video pulling them away from a group and asking one of them to take his hand out of his pocket.
“Were you guys part of the group?” one of the officers is heard asking in the video.
“Yeah,” the boys answer, one of them with his hands outstretched and slightly elevated.
“How’d you meet up with them?” the officer asked.
“We signed up online,” one of the men responded.
The officer then tells both men to hold their hands out, and checks their pockets.
The brothers then told the officers they arrived late for the tour and didn’t give their names because one of them was “shy.” The officers asked them for personal information, and one of the men hands them his ID card.
“People were just worried because you guys were just real quiet and didn’t answer any of their questions and they don’t know who you were because you didn’t show up with parents or any of that stuff,” one of the officers is heard explaining in the video.
The boys were not taken into custody and were free to go.
Three university vice presidents called the incident “sad and frustrating” in a joint statement.
“Particularly the experience of two students who were here to see if this was a good fit for them as an institution,” the email said.
Tony Frank, the university’s president, said in a message Friday that the school has reached out to the family and wants to at least reimburse them for their expenses on the trip and welcome them back to campus as VIP guests.
Frank also said the university was working on a number of changes for how student tours are conducted and how to address the incident in the future.
“Two young men, through no fault of their own, wound up frightened and humiliated because another campus visitor was concerned about their clothes and overall demeanor, which appears to have simply been shyness,” Frank said. “The very idea that someone -– anyone -– might ‘look’ like they don’t belong on a CSU Admissions tour is anathema.”
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