Colorado man says he was traumatized when police drew guns on him for picking up trash

Good Morning America

An African-American man in Boulder, Colorado, said several officers drew their guns on him and demanded his identification while he was picking up trash in front of his house.

According to ABC News, Zayd Atkinson, 26, was holding a metal trash picker and a bucket when a Boulder police officer ordered him to hand over his identification. After he complied, the officer refused to believe that he lived at the residence and ordered him to sit on the curb, Atkinson said.

{mosads}The incident, which occurred in March, escalated when the officer drew his gun on Atkinson, who said that he had no reason to comply with the officer’s orders. Several officers, including a supervisor, were called to the scene and also drew their guns, Atkinson said.

“I thought that once the firearm was out that that meant that he was going to try to kill me,” Atkinson said in an interview with “Good Morning America” on Friday. “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.”

“I had not done anything illegal; therefore, there was no reason for me to comply,” Atkinson added. “I continued to go back to work and pick up trash and clean up my grounds.”

Atkinson said he believes he was racially profiled by the officer because of his disheveled appearance at the time.

“I believe that this man had approached me because I’m a black male in an all-white town,” he said. “I thoroughly believe I was profiled. … I’m a black man. I have dreads. At the time I had a beard, and I was wearing raggedy clothes.”

Since the incident, Atkinson said he has been battling stress and trauma from the confrontation.

“I was suffering with a lot of anxiety, a lot of depression. I was having very strange dreams and couldn’t really sleep,” he said.

Boulder police told ABC News that the first officer to call for backup and draw his gun on Atkinson had been suspended with pay, pending an internal investigation.

“Officers ultimately determined that the man had a legal right to be on the property and returned the man’s school identification card,” the department said in a statement last month. “Boulder police began looking into the incident on Friday and early this morning launched an official internal affairs investigation.”

Atkinson’s attorney decried the department for placing the officer on administrative leave over the incident.

“The officer’s on a paid vacation right now. He’s on a taxpayer-paid vacation, and he’s at home being paid now for pointing a gun at a black man,” Siddhartha Rathod told “Good Morning America.” “He’s at home being paid for racially profiling Zayd, for illegally stopping him and for threatening his life.” 

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