MILWAUKEE – Milwaukee Bucks guard Sterling Brown sued the city of Milwaukee and its police department Tuesday, saying officers’ use of a stun gun during his arrest for a parking violation constitutes excessive force and that they targeted him because he is black.
Brown’s attorney Mark Thomsen filed the lawsuit in federal court, accusing police of “discriminating against Mr. Brown on the basis of his race.” The lawsuit alleges officers involved in his arrest used their incident report to try to reframe what happened to give the impression Brown was 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, when officers took him down because he didn’t immediately remove his hands from his pockets as ordered. An officer yells: “Taser! Taser! Taser!”
Brown had been cooperative with officers and never appeared to threaten police before or during his arrest, according to police body-camera videos.
Some officers suspected Brown might have a firearm because they saw paper targets with holes in the back seat of his car, according to the lawsuit. Brown told officers he didn’t have a gun when they asked him, but they didn’t give him “any real opportunity to comply” to their command that he take his hands out of his pockets, the lawsuit said.
Mayor Tom Barrett said in a statement 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.
Police Chief Alfonso Morales has not responded to an Associated Press request for comment.
Morales apologized to Brown last month when body-camera video of the arrest was released. 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.
A group of officers discussing the arrest shortly after it happened talked about “trying to protect” themselves from possible backlash over their confrontation with an NBA player and synchronized “their stories concerning what took place in the parking lot,” the lawsuit said.
Some of the details from their report made it into Morales’ written complaint about the officers’ actions, according to the lawsuit, with the chief saying Brown “refused to comply with a directive to remove his hands from his pockets and became resistive towards officers.”
One officer reacted to the arrest with glee, according to the lawsuit, which showed screenshots of him going on Twitter to mock Brown.
“Nice meeting Sterling Brown of the Milwaukee Bucks at work this morning! Lol(hash)FearTheDeer,” one tweet read, referencing a slogan used to cheer on the Bucks at games. That same officer posted a racist meme of Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant, according to a screenshot from the lawsuit.
Police have only released 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 seating in a squad car. They talked about how they could be perceived as racist for arresting a black Bucks player, with one saying if anything goes wrong, it “is going to be, `Ooh, the Milwaukee Police Department is all racist, blah, blah, blah.“’
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.
The lawsuit adds to a long list of litigation against the police department alleging officer misconduct in recent years. A pending lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union in Wisconsin accusing the department of targeting black and Latino residents to stop and question them without cause. The city is in settlement talks with the ACLU.
Last year, Milwaukee paid $2.3 million to settle a lawsuit over the death of Dontre Hamilton, a mentally ill black man fatally shot by a police officer after the officer roused him from a park bench downtown.
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