MINNEAPOLIS – A Metro Transit officer came under fire last month after being caught on video asking about the immigration status of a passenger on the Minneapolis Blue Line light rail.
In the viral Facebook video, Officer Andy Lamers can be seen questioning a passenger on the light rail. The passenger has since been identified as 23-year-old Ariel Vences-Lopez.
“Are you here illegally?” Lamers asked. Vences-Lopez, whose back is to the camera, can be heard saying “no.”
The passenger filming the video then asks the officer if he is “authorized” to ask about immigration status. Lamers shrugged and said, “not necessarily.”
According to Hennepin County jail records, Vences-Lopez was then arrested for giving an officer a false name, obstructing the legal process, and fare evasion. The officer reportedly had to use a stun gun on the Vences-Lopez prior to arresting him.
Two days following the incident, Vences-Lopez was transferred from the county jail to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody “for immigration violations,” according to the Star Tribune. On May 23, nine days after the incident was caught on video, a federal judge issued an order for removal.
Metro Transit denounced the incident, stressing their officers “will not act as immigration officers.”
“On May 23rd, Metro Transit first became aware that an officer questioned a rider about his immigration status. Immediately, our focus turned to ensuring that our officers fully understand and adhere to our policy regarding immigration status. The policy has been updated to explicitly state that Metro Transit officers will ‘ensure equal enforcement of the law and equal service to all persons regardless of their immigration status,’” Metro Transit said in a statement on Facebook.
Metro Transit said Lamers was no longer an employee of the Metro Transit Police Department, saying the incident was “not reflective of, nor does it represent, the practices and procedures of Metro Transit officers.”
Contrary to initial reports, Lamers was not fired, rather the officer voluntarily resigned from his position following the backlash. Sean Gormley, executive director of Law Enforcement Labor Services (LELS), confirmed in a statement that Lamers left on his own terms.
“He regrets the attention this issue has brought to his fellow officers at Metro Transit,” said Gormley.
LELS described Lamers, who is still employed with the New Hope Police Department, as “an experienced, dedicated police officer with an exemplary record of service.” However, Lamers’ job with New Hope might also be at risk. The Star Tribune reported a group called Communities United Against Police Brutality was intending on attending the June 12 New Hope City Council meeting to protest Lamers’ employment. Alpha News has reached out to the City of New Hope for an update following last night’s meeting.