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(Siddhartha Rathod via AP)

DENVER (AP) — A white Colorado police officer who pulled out his gun during a confrontation with a black man picking up trash around his dormitory resigned this week under an agreement that lets him collect $69,000 in salary despite violating department policies.

Police body camera footage released Thursday provided a full video account of the tense encounter, which had gained national attention based on video shot by someone inside a student dormitory at Naropa University, a liberal arts school associated with Buddhism in the city of Boulder.

City officials said the investigation could not prove that the officer, John Smyly, acted because of Zayd Atkinson’s race. Investigators found Smyly violated two department policies: police authority and public trust and conduct, the city attorney said.

RELATED: Colorado Cops Draw Guns On Man Cleaning His Yard

“Boulder is essentially saying we’re going to pay this officer and let him resign for threatening Zayd’s life, for racially profiling Zayd,” said Atkinson’s attorney, Siddhartha Rathod. “If you or I were to do this, we would be criminally charged. We would immediately lose our jobs.”

A phone number for Smyly could not be located Thursday. He did not mention the incident in his resignation letter.

Smyly approached Atkinson on March 1 in front of the condo-style building, where he was using a metal tool with a claw at its base to put trash into a bucket, according to the new footage. Smyly said he noticed Atkinson on the rear patio and wanted to see if he lived or worked there.

Atkinson said he did, and Smyly asked for identification with the address on it. Atkinson provided his school ID, which did not have an address and then offered to let himself into the building as proof.


Smyly asked for Atkinson’s date of birth. Atkinson refused, then picked up the bucket and tool and walked away.

“Put that down,” Smyly said on the tape. “Stop!”

He then told Atkinson that he was obstructing a police officer, “a jailable offense.” Smyly later told Atkinson that he was being detained for trespassing.

Smyly drew his stun gun and followed Atkinson to the back of the building, repeatedly telling him to sit down on the ground and put the “weapon” down, referring to the trash tool. Atkinson repeatedly said he had not done anything wrong.

“Your hand is on your weapon and you’re gonna shoot me,” Atkinson shouted. “That’s what you’re gonna do, officer? You’re gonna shoot a resident on his property for picking up trash?”

Smyly drew his gun when the two men reached the back of the building, an investigative summary said. On the video, Atkinson responds by shouting: “That’s a gun! I’m picking up trash! I’m picking up trash, and you’re holding a gun!”


After about eight minutes, more officers arrive and form a loose half circle around Atkinson.

One officer can be seen holding a rifle; the investigative summary says the weapon fires bean bags. One officer drew his handgun when he arrived but reholstered it in less than a minute, while Smyly had his gun out until Atkinson put the trash-grabbing tool down, according to the summary.

The report released with the video said Smyly had no authority to detain Atkinson or probable cause to charge him with any crime and should have left once Atkinson provided his name, address and his reason for being there.

Atkinson, 26, said he believes Smyly should have been fired immediately. He said he has had trouble sleeping and spends time outdoors or with friends to calm him.

“My life right now is kind of restless, unsettled,” he said.

City Attorney Tom Carr said firing Smyly would have led to a drawn-out appeal and potentially allowed him to keep his job.


Under the agreement, Smyly resigned his police role on May 9 but will remain an employee through February without performing any work. He will receive “commensurate pay and benefits” during that period and “a single, lump sum” payment for any accrued and unused vacation time when his employment officially ends Feb. 9.

Carr said the resignation agreement “allowed the city to provide the community information more quickly, and it transitioned Officer Smyly out of a law enforcement career.” The city’s bargaining agreement with police officers requires an appeal for any disciplinary action and could have allowed Smyly to return to duty, he added.

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15 thoughts on “Officer Quits After Confronting Black Man Picking Up Trash

  1. Get paid to go through police officer training. First week on the job, draw my gun on an unarmed noncriminal citizen. Paid Vacation for the rest of the year. Sweet deal. Where do I sign up?

  2. That’s a nice pay day for doing nothing!
    This was obviously a racial profile situation, had he been white the officer would never would’ve approached him!
    Dead wrong and getting paid for harassing a Black man😡

  3. pac4me on said:

    I’m proud that the young man stood his ground and at the same time did nothing even remotely considered threatening or he would surely be dead and this fool still would have received his salary and went on to harass the next black man that shouldn’t have been where he thought blacks aren’t supposed to be. We continue to be subjected to this kind of harassment and bullshit and white people continue to ask why we are so angry

  4. Barbara Dates on said:

    This is just another frm of RACISM at it’s worse. Ge us getting paid for the man picking up trash, to whom did nothing wrong. DAMN, where and how are these cops being trained??

  5. Passing Through!! on said:

    The IQ’s and education level of police officers are very low, it takes longer to become a barber than it does to become a policeman.

  6. Autumn on said:

    Smyly said he noticed Atkinson on the rear patio and wanted to see if he lived or worked there. If racist trash cop had seen a white guy on the patio he would’ve greeted him. Because he’s black he was burglarizing the place..Cop will be payed through next January to sit on his ass. Racists MF’s

  7. Passing Through!! on said:

    @ RULE…He should have OBEYED the officer, be a good slave and comply with racist authority…GTFOH! Teaching a black man to bow down to racist, comply, do as you’re told boy, yes sir, yes massa, right a way boss! This is more damaging, backwards and mentally enslaving than “so called” disrespecting authority. Zayd did the right thing he stood his ground and questioned the blue slave catcher who was clearly in the wrong. How in the “f” is he defying authority, a direct order when the person giving the order is in violation of his human rights? You should never teach your children to bow to a white supremacist this how we create coons, Herman Cains, Ben Carsons, Diamond and Silk. This low iq degenerate in blue clearly saw this young man was picking up trash with a bucket he had absolutely no reason to confront him to begin with, but were supposed to get on our knees and be half a human because some bigot with a badge say so. A quote from Dr. King “A man can’t ride your back unless it’s bent.”

  8. Leslie on said:

    In other words: “Here’s $69,0000. Go take a year off and then come back and apply to be a cop in the county right next door.” In essence he was REWARDED for violating policy! Unbelievable, yet SO damned believable at the same time. 😒

  9. S.D. on said:

    They couldn’t prove the officer acted out of race……really – – seriously!! That is the only reason the officer acted. As the report stated, once Mr. Atkinson provided the officer with his ID, it was time to move on. No, this officer wanted to, as most of them do, escalate the situation so that he would have a “reason” to shoot. His ass should not be allowed back in law enforcement in any community. He has an itchy trigger finger to shoot someone of color. He has shown what his worthless ass is all about. And Rule, please learn how to write and spell….it would make reading your comments a whole lot better.

  10. Ted Gravely on said:

    It’s degrading. These blue racists do it because they can and often get away with it. No man is going to Lord over me. I’m not doing what you say, because you say. Slave coons and their white supremacist masters make it hard for everyone. Heck no, I am not going to comply with something ridiculous. You have no authority when you give an illegal order. These racists own reports condemn that fool – you idiots love to make excuses for your slavery. Stay on your knees and comply. I’ll live and die like a man.

  11. Rule on said:

    Also get the whole story. If you was not on scene than you don’t know what really happen. Also you only got pieces of what was going on. All he had to do was put down the stuff and do what the officer ask. If your mom ask you to put the stuff down and you didn’t listen to would have got your teeth knock out. That good parenting,but society has turn that around. Now your a bad parent. Back in my day it was call respect. Today has made me a man of respect. I got my butt whip by my neighbor when I tried up her flower garden.the neighbor than my told my grandmother and got another spanking. See the point is today society has no respect to authority. Just want to point fingers. Always somebody else false. If he gave his Id than why was he obeying than. So why could he not obey by putting the stuff down when the officer ask. Officer had to ask for ID!! That was obeying the officer. Think about it.

    …ᴏɴʟɪɴᴇ ᴡᴏʀᴋ 𝟿𝟻-𝟻𝟶𝟶 ᴅᴏʟʟᴀʀs ᴇᴠᴇʀʏ ʜᴏᴜʀ.Read More

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