NBA Guard Sterling Brown Sues Milwaukee Cops for Excessive Force

(CN) — NBA guard Sterling Brown sued Milwaukee and its police department in federal court Tuesday, claiming he was arrested and Tasered because he’s black, in an incident that was captured on video.

Brown, a Milwaukee Bucks rookie, seeks punitive damages from the city and eight police officers for civil rights violations, including excessive force, unlawful arrest, discrimination, pain and suffering and failure to intervene.

The 40-page lawsuit filed by Mark Thomsen with Gingras, Cates & Wachs of Waukesha cites racially charged comments and social media posts about the incident by the officers involved. Brown was confronted by police after parking across two handicap spots outside a Walgreens drugstore about 2 a.m. on Jan. 26. He claims police violated his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights during his arrest and Tasing.

The Milwaukee Police Department declined comment on the suit Tuesday, but told the Milwaukee Sun Sentinel that defendant Police Chief Alfonso Morales will discuss the issue at a Common Council meeting on Thursday.

Mayor Tom Barrett said in a statement Tuesday: “I’m hopeful this incident will be a turning point and allow us to take those actions necessary to improve police community relations.”

Defendants include Morales, Sgt. Sean Mahnke, Sgt. Jeffrey S. Krueger and Officers Joseph J. Grams, Bojan Samardzic, James P. Collins, Cristobal Martinez Avila, Jason P. Jensen and Erik A. Andrade.

Brown’s arrested made national headlines after body camera footage of the incident was released.

According to the video, Brown initially gave Grams his name and showed an identification card. Grams apparently did not recognize him as a player with the Bucks and called for assistance.

Half a dozen squad cars showed up and the situation escalated, with police standing in a circle around Brown before Mahnke yelled at him to take his hands out of his pockets immediately.

Then Samardzic, one of the officers encircling Brown, drew his gun.

Brown, who had put his hands into and out of his pockets several times before that on a cold January night, answered: “Hold on. I’ve got stuff in my hands.”

Police responded by swarming him and Mahnke shouted: “Taser! Taser! Taser!” Brown was forced to the ground and shocked in the back.

Throughout the videos, Brown does not appear aggressive.

Grams, Krueger and Mahnke were disciplined; another eight officers will receive remedial training on professional communications and will be required to review the Police Department’s policy on cooperating with citizens to ensure public safety, according to the Sun Sentinel.

Brown’s lawsuit cites several Facebook posts Andrade made after the incident.

Andrade wrote: “Nice meeting Sterling Brown of the Milwaukee Bucks at work this morning! Lol#FearTheDeer,” just hours after the fracas, according to the lawsuit.

Three months later, Andrade shared a photo of NBA star Kevin Durant, mocking his hair by comparing it to an ice cream cone, with the text: “Damn. … More naps than preschool! Lmao.”

Despite the public outcry after the body cam video was released, Andrade continued to mock Brown on Facebook, in posts whose screen shots are included in the complaint, including this one about J.R. Smith of the Cleveland Cavaliers after the team lost Game 1 of the NBA Finals: “I hope JR Smith double parks in Walgreens handicap Parkin spots when he’s in Milwaukee!”

The post implies that Smith, who is black, deserved punishment for his play during the game.

“Defendant Andrade’s post is an admission that he and other defendant officers are allowed to engage in unlawful attacks and arrests of African Americans without justification and then relish such events without any fear of real discipline,” the complaint states.

Brown signed a three-year deal with the Bucks in July 2017 worth $3.8 million. The shooting guard averaged 4 points a game primarily coming off the bench in his first pro season.

Brown has told the Sun Sentinel that he was not motivated by money to file the lawsuit.

“That’s why I’m doing what I’m doing, so officers can be held accountable,” Brown told the paper in May. “And, you know, take different procedures in having interactions with African American men.”

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