Bucks' Sterling Brown sues city of Milwaukee, police department over civil rights violations in stun-gun arrest
Milwaukee Bucks guard Sterling Brown filed suit against the city of Milwaukee and the Milwaukee Police Department in federal court on Tuesday, arguing that members of the department violated his civil rights by using a Taser on him in a wrongful arrest stemming from a parking incident in January.
Mark Thomsen, Brown’s attorney, filed the lawsuit on Tuesday, following through on a course of action discussed last month by alleging excessive force and unlawful arrest in the incident, which took place outside a Walgreens in the early hours of Jan. 26. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the defendants named in Brown’s suit include the City of Milwaukee, Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales, Sgt. Sean Mahnke, Sgt. Jeffrey S. Krueger, and Officers Joseph J. Grams, Bojan Samardzic, James P. Collins, Cristobal Martinez Avila, Erik A. Andrade and Jason P. Jensen.
Why was Sterling Brown arrested?
Milwaukee police initially reported that, while “conducting a business check” at around 2 a.m., they encountered a vehicle parked across two disability parking spaces” in the Walgreens’ parking lot, and that while speaking with and giving a citation to a “22-year-old male,” later identified as Brown, he became combative.
“During the incident an electronic control device was deployed and the man was arrested,” Milwaukee Police Sgt. Tim Gauerke told Yahoo Sports in a statement. “The circumstances of the incident and the use of force are currently being reviewed by the Department.”
That review, which included the viewing of police body camera footage of the incident, revealed that Brown’s actions did not warrant a criminal charge for resisting arrest or obstructing an officer. That footage made its way to the desk of Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who said in May — four months after officers Tased Brown — that he “definitely [had] concerns” about the behavior of the officers involved based on what he saw.
Footage shows police officers acted inappropriately
One day later, the department released the footage. It shows an officer initiating a verbal confrontation with Brown, at least five other backup vehicles arriving to handle a traffic citation, and officers surrounding Brown because he didn’t take his hands out of his pockets immediately as ordered, taking him to the ground and eventually Tasing him.
WISN-TV in Wisconsin later uncovered more footage from Brown’s arrest, showing an officer stepping on his ankle while he was pinned face down on the ground and handcuffed, and others expressing concern about Brown’s treatment only after realizing that he plays for the Bucks, meaning there would likely be a “media firestorm” from which they’d need to protect themselves. Additional footage released Monday by WISN showed one of the officers surrounding Brown before his Tasing briefly drawing his gun.
“Sterling Brown could be dead,” his lawyer, Thomsen, told WISN. “That gun could have gone off, and it would be a whole different story.”
Video of Brown’s arrest sparks controversy
Chief Morales apologized to Brown for the incident, saying members of his department “acted inappropriately” and “were recently disciplined.” Three officers (Grams, Krueger and Mahnke) reportedly received suspensions ranging from two days to just over two weeks; eight others are reportedly “undergoing remedial training in professional communications.” Following the release of the multiple videos of Brown’s detention, the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission has ordered a complete audit and review of the arrest, what precipitated it and its aftermath.
The Milwaukee Police Association, the union representing rank-and-file officers, decried an alleged lack of support from civic leaders, shifting blame for what happened to Brown away from the officers involved and toward “drastic understaffing.” The city of Milwaukee has paid “roughly $22 million in police misconduct lawsuits since 2015,” according to the Journal Sentinel, with taxpayers footing the bill.
Sterling Brown aims to push police, politicians for accountability
The Bucks called the officers’ actions “shameful and inexcusable,” and offered their public support for Brown “as he shares his story and takes action to provide accountability” … which is why he filed suit on Tuesday.
“Everybody thought I was combative, thought I was being aggressive, but I get mad every time I watch it, because I was defenseless pretty much,” Brown told Robin Roberts of ABC’s “Good Morning America” last month. “I couldn’t do nothing, and they still did what they did. The video shows justice of what really happened. It’s a body cam, it’s close, and you can hear my screaming or whatnot. It’s tough every time I watch it, but that’s why I’m here doing what I’m doing legally. That’s why I’m speaking to you, just to draw attention to it and try to be a voice and try to help as many people as I can in that situation.”
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