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Boston officer apologizes for confrontation with videographer

Target of officer’s outburst says he’s satisfied

Boston Police Sergeant Henry Staines stood in front of Brother Lawrence, four days after shoving a replica gun in his face while Lawrence filmed him, and offered his hand in a gesture of apology and friendship.

"You did it, you're good," Lawrence told him, clasping his hand. Then the two men leaned in for a hug, clapping each other on the back.

In a meeting Friday at Boston NAACP headquarters that civil rights leaders and police officials deemed "historic," Staines apologized to Lawrence for his behavior during a police stop Monday, when he accosted Lawrence for videotaping officers surrounding a teenager who was playing with a realistic-looking fake gun on Edgewood Street.


The 2½-minute video shows Staines telling Lawrence not to film him, then striding toward him with the seized gun and pressing it to the lens of Lawrence's camera — an image that Police Commissioner William B. Evans said "disturbed" him, and one that launched an internal affairs investigation.

But on Friday, Lawrence said he was satisfied with the apology, and did not want to see Staines disciplined.

"I don't see the same person I saw on the street," said Lawrence after the meeting. "I see a man that's apologetic and sincere, and it's time to move on."

Lawrence asked to be identified as "Brother Lawrence" and not by his full name to protect his identity. Most of the meeting between Lawrence and Staines was closed to the media, and Staines did not answer questions afterwards. But those who attended the meeting described a "man-to-man" conversation made possible by the strong ties between Boston police and community leaders.

"This has been a very trying time for us in Boston, for us across the community and across the country, as we look at what's happening in Baltimore, and Ferguson, and many other places," said Boston NAACP president Michael Curry, who attended the meeting. "Today's conversation around the gentleman that was holding the video camera is a great example of how to do this the right way."


Boston Police Superintendent in Chief William Gross said that the department wants transparency, and encourages people to come forward with information about how officers are acting in the streets — good or bad.

Monday's incident, he said, should be a "teachable moment" for the department.

"We'll move forward letting our officers know, and letting the public know, that it is your constitutional right to film officers," said Gross, who sat in on the meeting.

Gross also lamented the increasing popularity of realistic-looking fake guns among young people, noting that police had confiscated more than 200 in the past year. The guns put the youths carrying them in danger, because police cannot always tell they are fake.

On Thursday, Evans said that Staines acted partly out of frustration over these fake guns, noting that with tension between police and citizens high across the country, Staines was upset at the idea that police could have shot a child playing with a toy.

But during the meeting Friday, Gross said, Staines did not try to explain his actions to Lawrence.

"Sergeant Staines didn't make any excuses," said Gross. "What he did state is that he held himself to a high standard, and in his interactions with Brother Lawrence, he failed."

The internal affairs investigation will continue, Gross said, even though Lawrence said the apology was enough.


Darnell Williams, president of the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts, who attended the meeting, said the apology was proof that problems between police and citizens could be handled collaboratively and transparently.

"We in that room walked away knowing there was genuine progress made today," said Williams.

During their final moments in the room together, Staines gave Lawrence his card and told him to call if he ever needed anything.

"If you see me, please make it a point to stop," Staines told Lawrence. "I'm sorry again."

Evan Allen can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @evanmallen.