Boone Police, App State student address racist incident night of Luke Combs concert


An App State student and Boone Police have resolved a viral incident involving racism that occured on the night of the Luke Combs concert Sept 4.

Late Thursday evening, The Appalachian obtained a joint press release from junior Matt Russell, Boone Police, App State Black Student Association and community organizer Raheim Andrews. In the statement, Russell retracts involving Boone Police in racially profiling him and has chosen not to file a complaint. 

The joint release comes after Russell’s original statement on his personal Instagram account Tuesday night, which garnered nearly 11,000 likes and 800 comments, detailing how he was racially profiled by Boone Police and blamed for disruptive actions of nearby white men after the “Luke Combs Plays The Rock” concert at Kidd Brewer Stadium.

Russell said that while in a friend’s residence at Fairfield Apartments following the concert, unknown drunk men entered the apartment. 

After the men made catcalling remarks to those present, they exited the apartment and set off an explosion, later identified as a firework mortar shell, in the parking lot, catching the attention of several nearby Boone Police officers and Watauga County Sheriff’s deputies, according to Russell. 

According to Boone Police’s joint statement, Russell was first accused of the explosion and was detained by officers. 

In his original post, Russell said the four men told Boone Police he was responsible for setting off the explosion. Russell also said he was met with aggression from officers, told to “sit the f— down” and “stop lying.” He said Officer Page briefly detained him for questioning. 

After a “quick investigation,” officers could not conclude who was responsible after having questioned Russell and searching the truck associated with the four men, according to the joint statement. The four men were instructed to leave the property after the driver was deemed sober to drive. 

“Mr. Russell was given the opportunity to watch the body camera footage and upon seeing the whole picture decided that there was no reason to file a complaint against the police,” said Boone Police Chief Andy Le Beau in the statement. “I have watched the video and concluded that the officers acted appropriately.”

Le Beau said Russell’s view of the night was “very narrow,” but reviewing the body camera footage helped put things into perspective. He added that some of the actions Russell thought originated from the police actually came from community members that watched the situation unfold. 

“I wanted to gain perspective; it can always change. You have to be willing to talk about it. That’s why I went to Boone PD,” Russell said in the release. “We are a community and Boone PD is part of it. We can work together to make it better.”

Russell also posted a second statement on his Instagram account late Wednesday night, which said he and Boone Police “came to an understanding” and are now “working together for change.” 

The chief of police said “we have all learned lessons in this situation,” and now feels Russell is a new partner in the community. He also emphasized that Officer Page is a fine law enforcement officer who has been negatively affected by this situation. Le Beau encouraged anyone who feels they have been treated poorly by Boone Police to file a complaint on their website.

App State’s Black Student Association said they stand with Russell during this traumatic time and recognize the situation was incited by the men who accused Russell, not Boone Police. 

“It is in instances like this in which we are appreciative to have an established relationship with the Boone Police Department to review the events of that night,” their statement read. 

Their statement emphasized there is racism in the App State and Boone communities, and they look forward to further collaboration with Boone Police “to work towards a more equitable and unbiased community.”

The statement from community leader Raheim Andrews ended the joint statements. He offered support to Russell and a call “to better educate and connect the gap that is apparent in this community.” 

Russell told The Appalachian solidarity in and outside the Boone community drove him to share his experience in the first place.

“This support gave me the strength to be able to speak out about the events that took place on the night of Sept. 4. This led me to work together with Boone PD for change in the community,” Russell said to The Appalachian. “I encourage you all to remember that I am fortunate enough to be able to share my story while so many go unheard everyday. Keep spreading awareness and continue to fight for change.”

The Appalachian contacted Russell on Wednesday morning for an interview following the release of his original statement. He declined to be interviewed but did provide a statement on Thursday evening after The Appalachian obtained the joint statement.