A Native American teenager who was with his younger brother when the two were pulled from a college tour said the ordeal began less than 30 minutes after they had arrived on the Colorado campus. School officials say a parent in the group called the police to report feeling nervous about their presence.
"I think it's pretty discriminatory," 19-year-old Thomas Kanewakeron Gray said Thursday. "Me and my brother just stayed to ourselves the whole time. I guess that was scaring people; that we were just quiet."
Gray said police stopped him and his 17-year-old brother, Lloyd Skanahwati Gray, while the Colorado State University admissions tour group was inside a gymnasium Monday, and began questioning the brothers aggressively about why they were on campus that day. Campus police patted down each of the teens and released them only after they were able to provide an email proving they had reserved spots on the tour.
By then, however, their tour group had moved on without them and the brothers left the campus and returned home to New Mexico.
The older brother said the school was their first choice, because of its proximity to Denver, where they could attend concerts. The brothers, both Mohawk, are musicians, and study contemporary and traditional music.
The older of the two brothers is currently a student at Northern New Mexico College in Espanola and hoped to transfer. The younger brother is a high school senior at Santa Fe Indian School.
The siblings saved until they had enough money to drive the roughly seven hours from the family's home in Santa Cruz, New Mexico to Fort Collins for the tour.
The brothers' ordeal marks the latest in a series of incidences nationwide spotlighting treatment minorities often face in everyday circumstances, including the arrest of two black men at a Starbucks in Philadelphia who were handcuffed and taken to jail after a worker said they had refused to buy anything or leave.
Colorado State University officials said in an email to students that it is reviewing what happened to try to avoid similar situations or handle them more appropriately.
"The incident is sad and frustrating from nearly every angle, particularly the experience of two students who were here to see if this was a good fit for them as an institution," the email said. "As a university community, we deeply regret the experience of these students while they were guests on our campus."
The university officials said a parent called police about the brothers, who had joined the tour after it started. According the email, the tour guide did not know that campus police had been called or responded.
The teens' mother, Lorraine Kahneratokwas Gray, said she believes her sons were victims of racial profiling and she feared for their safety after learning about the encounter.
"I felt they had been the victim of racism and that they weren't safe there," she said in a post this week on Facebook.
She later told the AP, "I don't think they even grasped the magnitude of what happened to them until we talked."