At the beginning of last month, Zayd Atkinson’s experience with Boulder, Colorado, police drew national attention and outrage after video footage showed the officers—who either drew their guns or hand their hands on their holsters—confronting the 26-year-old who was picking up trash in front of his own home.

Atkinson has now decided to share his side of the story, telling Good Morning America in an interview airing Friday that he has not slept well since the “traumatic experience.”

“I thought that once the firearm was out that that meant that he was going to try to kill me,” Atkinson said. “It was a frightening experience. I didn’t know what else to do besides, you know, to fight with my voice and to practice my rights, which were thoroughly being breached.”

“I was suffering with a lot of anxiety, a lot of depression. I was having very strange dreams and couldn’t really sleep,” he added.

The incident started on March 1, when an officer spotted Atkinson on his property picking up trash using a metal clamp and bucket. The officer demanded to know if Atkinson was allowed to be on the property that was marked “private” by a sign.

Atkinson readily gave the officer his ID and keycard for the building, but the officer still decided to further investigate, requesting back up and reporting that Atkinson, who refused to be held hostage on his own property, was uncooperative and didn’t want to put down a blunt object (aka the clamp used to pick up trash).

Soon, several officers were pulling up with their weapons at the ready.

“I had not done anything illegal therefore there was no reason for me to comply,” Atkinson insisted. “I continued to go back to work and pick up trash and clean up my grounds.”

Video footage taken by a witness showed some of the altercation, including Atkinson’s anger at the treatment he was receiving.

“I live here! I’m a resident of this f–king property. I’m picking up garbage from my f–king porch,” he could be heard yelling. “Don’t tell me what to f–king do. You guys don’t have a goddamn f–king right to be doing this!”

Atkinson told GMA that at one point he turned his back and started walking toward the back of the building as an officer followed him with a Taser in his hand.

“I believe that this man had approached me because I’m a black male in an all-white town. … I thoroughly believe I was profiled,” he added. “Not only that you know I’m a black man, I have dreads. At the time I had a beard and I was wearing raggedy clothes.”

The incident sparked outrage in the community, leading to a city council meeting where members grilled the police chief about policy.

The police department placed the officer who initiated contact on administrative leave as it investigates the incident, something that Atkinson’s attorney Siddhartha Rathod took issue with.

“The officer’s on a paid vacation right now; he’s on a taxpayer paid vacation and he’s at home being paid now for pointing a gun at a black man,” Rathod told GMA “He’s at home being paid for racially profiling Zayd for illegally stopping him and for threatening his life.”

Atkinson says he’s trying to work through what happened with him, and wants to meet with city officials to discuss policies and officer training.

“There are instances like this where people don’t come out alive. I’m blessed that I got out alive and unharmed,” he said. “It definitely brings fear to my heart knowing that some people don’t survive.”


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