Milwaukee Bucks guard Sterling Brown has slapped the city of Milwaukee and its police department with a lawsuit, claiming officers’ use of a stun gun during his arrest for a mere parking violation constitutes excessive force and that they targeted him because he is African-American.
Brown’s attorney Mark Thomsen filed the lawsuit in federal court on Tuesday, accusing police of “discriminating against Mr. Brown on the basis of his race.” The lawsuit alleges that officers involved in his arrest used their incident report to try to reframe what happened to give the impression Brown resisted and obstructed them.
“Mr. Brown hopes that instead of the typical denial of the claims … the city actually admit to the wrongs, admit that his constitutional rights were violated,” Thomsen said at a news conference outside City Hall after filing the lawsuit.
Brown had been talking with officers while waiting for a citation for illegally parking in a disabled spot outside a Walgreens at about 2 a.m. on Jan. 26. Body-camera video showed that Brown was never a threat to police during his arrest, but officers took him down because he didn’t immediately remove his hands from his pockets as ordered. An officer yelled: “Taser! Taser! Taser!”
Police had released only the body-camera video of the first officer who contacted Brown. But additional body-camera and squad-car videos showed the moments after officers used a stun gun on him. In one, Brown is on the ground and handcuffed when an officer puts one of his boots on Brown’s ankle, holding it there. Brown doesn’t mention being in any discomfort, but he questions the officer’s actions.
“C’mon man, you’re stepping on my ankle for what?” Brown said. In response, the officer said he was trying to prevent Brown from kicking anyone.
Other videos showed an officer talking with two colleagues seated in a squad car. They talked about how they could be perceived as racist for arresting a black Bucks player, with one saying that if anything goes wrong, it “is going to be, ‘Ooh, the Milwaukee Police Department is all racist, blah, blah, blah.’”
The officers talked about “trying to protect” themselves from possible public backlash and synchronized “their stories concerning what took place in the parking lot,” the lawsuit said.
Newly released footage also shows one of the officers drawing his gun for a brief moment.
“That gun could have gone off, and it would be a whole different story,” Thomsen said.
The harassment didn’t stop on that day.One officer, Erik Andrade, reacted to the arrest with glee, according to the lawsuit, which showed screenshots of his Facebook posts about the incident.“Nice meeting Sterling Brown of the Milwaukee Bucks at work this morning! Lol #FearTheDeer,” one post read, referencing a slogan used to cheer on the Bucks at games.Also, after JR Smith’s blunder at the end of regulation in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, Andrade made reference to the incident with Brown when he posted about Smith.
Andrade wrote: “I hope JR Smith double parks in Walgreens handicap Parkin spot when he’s in Milwaukee!”“Defendant Andrade’s post is an admission that he and other Defendant officers are allowed to engage in unlawful attacks of African-Americans without justification and then relish such events without any fear of real discipline,” the lawsuit states.Andrade also posted a racist meme of Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant on Facebook, according to a screenshot from the lawsuit.
Brown wasn’t charged with anything, and three officers were disciplined, with suspensions ranging from two to 15 days. Eight other officers were ordered to undergo remedial training in professional communications.Brown told the Journal Sentinel in an interview last month that he “gave in” when police used a stun gun and that he didn’t do anything to resist because he didn’t want officers to “pull out their guns.”
“I was just being smart. I just wanted to get out of the situation and get home,” he said.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said in a statement that he hopes something good comes from the lawsuit.
“I’m hopeful this incident will be a turning point and allow us to take those actions necessary to improve police community relations,” he said.
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