OKC Black Lives Matter arrest may be unfounded

Video of Brandon Lara's arrest

By Sarah Boone
Journalism Intern

On July 10, 2016, 24-year-old Brandon “Donny” Lara was arrested while protesting in the Black Lives Matter movement held in downtown Oklahoma City, OK. Lara was alongside the protesters and his associates say he has always been an advocate for the oppressed. Lara is white and Hispanic with dread locks and tattoos, including tattoos on his face. Lara was wearing sunglasses and a hat, like many of the other protestors, and had a bandana over his face.

When asked why Lara was arrested, Captain Paco Ballderama, who is overseeing the investigation, claimed, “He stood out to police officers as being somebody who looked very suspicious, was dressed very suspiciously, and might be a threat.” However, Lara was the only arrest out of the day, though people were sporting masks and bandanas on their faces.

Brandon Lara holding American flag alongside protester on July 10, 2016. Photo submitted from Alicia Smith 7/11/2016 @ 10:25 p.m

The reason for his was arrest was originally for “disorderly conduct and disrupting the peace,” according to Captain Ballderama. Witness Grayson Hightower told The Gayly, “We [Hightower and Lara] were walking towards the front because we wanted to get closer to the speaker. An undercover cop said something to Donny about ‘you gotta come this way.’ Donny asked why and the cop said ‘suspicious behavior,’ so Donny complied.

“The cop said to take his bandana off so he did and walked with the cop. They asked for his ID and so Donny gave him that. Then he [the police officer] opened his [Donny’s] bag. They [the police] called more people in and then told him he was under arrest for not complying with law enforcement even though he did everything they asked.

“And then, they thoroughly searched his bag and found smoke bombs from the Fourth of July because they [Lara and friend] had a fire breathing show [which they, reportedly, frequently perform].”

Lara had 8 smoke bombs in his backpack from, what witnesses claim, were for Lara and his friend fire-breathing acts, which he had not removed. Witnesses also claim that after being placed in the police car, Lara had fainted due to, what they believe was, heat exhaustion. The ambulance later arrived and transported Lara to the hospital.

“[The police] arrested him and the car was off so he had a heat stroke and was out for about 10 minutes,” Hightower explains.

When asked if Balderrama knew anything of Lara losing consciousness in the back seat of the law enforcement vehicle, his response was “I don’t.”

Balderrama also claimed “In the backseat, all of our vehicles do have air conditioning.”

In the video shown above, Lara was complying with the police officers and doing what the officers asked him to do; however, Captain Balderrama  claimed that “[Lara] was uncooperative” and “was not giving any  information.

In the video, someone states “Why are they singling him out?”

Below is a statement from a witness who wishes to remain anonymous:

"This man may have been illegally searched, improperly arrested and was harmed during the course of his arrest. He was placed in the back of a police car where he passed out from heat exhaustion. He had to be hospitalized before he could be taken to be booked.

"As far as him just being a spectator, that is incorrect, also. He was there to be peaceful with the NOH8 message.

"As far as the 'sovereign-citizen movement' is concerned, I have never heard him nor heard of him identifying with things of this nature in the past. I had to actually go and educate myself on what exactly this movement is all about.

"My experience with this young man is that he is in no way racist or an anti-Semite. He is a hardworking guy who would help anybody do anything they needed help with and would give him the clothes off his back if need be, I feel this comment if made by him at all, was either misconstrued or put in his mouth by interrogators.

"He is a fire-breathing performer and the smoke devices were accidentally left in the bag after a performance and forgotten about. The ‘mask’ was a bandana around his neck. The backpack was filled with bottles of water and Gatorade bottles.

"This man was 'suspicious' to the police because of his appearance. He chooses to look a certain way and that makes him a target. He confronted the police about that, being profiled, and although a different type of stereotype was in play here, isn't that part of problem we as society are facing as a whole?"

The Gayly - 7/11/2016 @ 5:04 p.m. CDT