The Brigham Young University staffer who yelled at a Black student for filming on campus last week followed through on her threat to call the school’s police and filed a report.
A copy of her report was obtained by The Salt Lake Tribune through a public records request and lists the staff member as the complainant, confirming she ended up calling officers at the Provo university shortly after the confrontation.
A police spokesperson had originally said he was “not aware” that she had filed a report. But according to the dispatch, she called in a “disturbance” around 12:30 p.m. on Sept. 19 about “people asking questions that made students feel uncomfortable.”
Her report was about Sebastian Stewart-Johnson, a senior at BYU and a member of the popular Black Menaces group that films videos for TikTok in which they interview students about race and other inequities at the school sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The interaction drew widespread attention after Stewart-Johnson posted about the employee coming up to him and yelling at him outside the student center. He has shared a video clip of her stomping toward him. And he has said that she told him she was a staff member and was going to report him for allegedly violating the private school’s policy for filming.
“This white woman, who works at BYU, starts yelling at me,” Stewart-Johnson said. “She tells me she’s going to call the cops on me because I’m recording TikToks, which she would not do to a white TikToker.”
And her report was also not the only one filed against Stewart-Johnson from the situation.
After the staffer yelled at Stewart-Johnson, a student named Jacob Christensen has acknowledged that he followed the member of the Black Menaces across campus and blocked his videos, saying that the employee had directed him to do so.
Christensen’s wife also later filed a report with campus police, saying her husband was being threatened on social media by fans of the Black Menaces for doing that. But an officer wrote in his notes that there were no threats in the comment sections on the group’s videos that were directed at Christensen and the investigation “has not revealed any evidence of criminal activity.”
That case is listed as closed, while the staff member’s report still says “active.”
The school didn’t initially confirm the identity of the employee who confronted Stewart-Johnson in a statement to The Tribune earlier this week. But Stewart-Johnson found her profile on the school’s website, and it matches the police report.
She was previously listed on BYU’s website as an administrative secretary. Her profile, though, has since been removed.
A BYU spokesperson confirmed to The Tribune in an email Wednesday, though, that she is “still employed at the university.” The staff member did not immediately respond to The Tribune’s requests for comment.
The school has not commented on her decisions to confront Stewart-Johnson and to call police. While an officer told her it would have been “better to observe and report,” there is no indication in the police report that she violated school policy or the law, and The Tribune is not naming her at this time.
Stewart-Johnson said Thursday that is “contradictory and comical that the people who harassed me filed a police report on me.” He also said he plans to file a counter complaint for harassment and stalking against both the staff member and Christensen.
He said it feels like other national cases that have drawn criticism where a Black person is reported to police for something mundane, like standing outside their home or bird-watching.
“Truly, that’s what it feels like to me,” he said.
In her report to BYU police, the staff member told an officer that she works inside the BYU Bookstore. She said she has a window there that “faces the quad area,” where Stewart-Johnson had been filming the day she reported him.
She told police she would “let us know if she sees them again.”
Her initial report had been forwarded to security to respond. Officers said they didn’t find anyone who “matched that description” given by the staff member when they arrived outside the student center.
She spoke again with police the next day, saying she was worried that Stewart-Johnson had filmed her.
“She went on to say that her image may be on their Instagram feed and wanted to know what she could do,” the police report states. The officer said he asked her “if she has seen any video with herself in it. She told me she had not.”
She then asked the officer if it had been “wise for her to approach” Stewart-Johnson. The officer told her that it would’ve been “better to observe and report the activity to our security dispatch. I told her that we could then approach the individuals and address the problem.”
It’s unclear who is responsible for enforcing BYU’s policy for filming on campus — or if it is enforced; the only policy seems to indicate that policy carry that out. But several new videos shot at the university by popular accounts run by white students have continued to be posted in the days following, without any indication that those individuals had been told to stop filming.
The staff member’s report is the first made against any of the members of the Black Menaces since they started their TikTok page in February 2022.
Stewart-Johnson has said he feels he was targeted because of his skin color, with Black students making up less than 1% of BYU’s enrollment. And he said he is not violating the policy.
The school’s rules on filming ban commercial photography and videography, as well as anything that would be considered political advocacy. And individuals cannot make videos “aimed at generating income.” But the policy allows “video and photographs for personal use that are unobtrusive [and] are in keeping with other campus policies.”
Additional police reports
After the confrontation with the staff member, Stewart-Johnson walked away and started doing interviews in other areas of campus. While he did so another student, Christensen, tailed him for about 15 minutes.
The Cougar Chronicle, a conservative online publication that covers BYU but isn’t formally approved by the school, posted a statement on its website identifying Christensen as its editor-in-chief and saying he was following Stewart-Johnson because the staff member had told Christensen to do so.
Stewart-Johnson repeatedly asked Christensen to stop following him. Stewart-Johnson later posted video of that interaction, too, saying it made him feel unsafe and uncomfortable.
When she filed a report with BYU police, Christensen’s wife said since images of her husband were posted online on the Black Menaces’ account it “resulted in a lot of indirect threatening comments” and she was “afraid of any violent action toward them,” according to the police report.
The police officer said he asked if there were any direct threats and that Christensen’s wife said there were not. She pointed to one comment from a poster who said he wanted to “get in the ring with that guy.” Stewart-Johnson had also specifically asked his followers in his post not to threaten Christensen.
The officer said he looked into the comments and didn’t find anything criminal. An attempt by The Tribune to reach Christensen for further comment was not initially returned.
In a follow-up, the officer said he told the wife “that I felt her husband would be well advised to leave the enforcement of BYU policy to the proper BYU authorities and avoid confrontation situations such as this.”
BYU police received one more call about the confrontation from a friend of Stewart-Johnson’s that wanted to report Christensen for harassment.
The officer told the individual that he had not seen anything in the videos posted online to indicate Christensen harassed Stewart-Johnson.
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