The Milwaukee Police Department has released video showing officers using a Taser on Milwaukee Bucks rookie Sterling Brown during a January incident that stemmed from a parking violation in a Walgreens parking lot. The NBA player was hit with the stun gun despite the fact he wasn’t “combative” or “threatening” during the incident, a source, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel prior to the video’s release, adding that it was “very bad.” You can watch the body cam video released by the police above. Brown is thrown down by several officers and the Taser is used about the 8:13-mark of the video.
The incident occurred January 26, 2018, about 2 a.m., Milwaukee Police said in a press release issued Wednesday, May 23, along with the body camera video. Police Chief Alfonso Morales said in the statement an investigation revealed officers “acted inappropriately” and were “recently disciplined,” while no charges were filed against Brown. Details about the discipline received by the officers were not released. Their names have not been released, but police officials said their information would be made public at a later date.
“During the encounter Mr. Brown was decentralized, tased and arrested. I am sorry this incident escalated to this level,” Morales said in the statement. “When I took office, I vowed to rebuild trust between the Milwaukee Police Department and the community. We are doing that. I promised that when the Department is involved in events of this nature, we will be honest about them. We are.”
Morales refused to take questions from the media during a press conference Wednesday evening before the video was released, instead choosing to read a statement. He walked out as reporters shouted questions at him, saying that if he was really trying to be transparent, he would answer them.
Brown, a 23-year-old Illinois native who was drafted by the Bucks in the second round of the 2017 NBA Draft out of SMU and played in 54 games during his rookie season, is planning on suing the Milwaukee Police Department, his lawyer told the Journal Sentinel. His attorney, Mark Thomsen of Gingras, Cates & Wachs, told the newspaper Brown plans to file a federal civil rights lawsuit. It is not clear when the suit will be filed.
“My experience in January with the Milwaukee Police Department was wrong and shouldn’t happen to anybody. What should have been a simple parking ticket turned into an attempt at police intimidation, followed by the unlawful use of physical force, including being handcuffed and tased, and then unlawfully booked,” Brown said Wednesday in a statement released by the Bucks. “This experience with the Milwaukee Police Department has forced me to stand up and tell my story so that I can help prevent these injustices from happening in the future.”
He added, “Situations like mine and worse happen every day in the black community. Being a voice and a face for people who won’t be heard and don’t have the same platform as I have is a responsibility I take seriously. I am speaking for Dontre Hamilton of Milwaukee, Laquan McDonald of Chicago, Stephon Clark of Sacramento, Eric Garner of New York, and the list goes on. These people aren’t able to speak anymore because of unjust actions by those who are supposed to ‘serve and protect’ the people.”
Brown continued, “The common denominator in all of these situations has been racism towards the minority community, the abuse of power, and the lack of accountability for officers involved. The lack of repercussions for the police officers involved in so many of these cases is offensive. This is a slap in the face to the victims’ families and communities. Black men shouldn’t have to have their guard up and instantly be on the defensive when seeing a police officer, but it’s our reality and a real problem. There must be mutual respect and both sides have to figure out how to accomplish this.”
In the days leading up to the release of the bodycam footage, Milwaukee officials went on what amounted to an apology tour, asking for the public to forgive the actions of the officers and work with the city to move forward from what happened.
“It was a disturbing video when I saw it, and I know that the police chief feels the same way,” Mayor Tom Barrett told the Journal Sentinel on Monday. “And I don’t know exactly what actions his department is going to take, but it is disconcerting to see some of the actions in that video.”
Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales posted a “Message to the Community” on YouTube ahead of the video’s release. saying he will defend officers when they are right and admit when they are wrong:
“If there’s ever an incident where one of our members makes a mistake, unnecessarily escalating a situation, I’m going to be honest and transparent about it,” he said. “In those instances where we have made mistakes and are wrong, I’m sorry.”
Assistant Police Chief Michael Brunson spoke at a gathering of faith leaders on Sunday, and told them, “There’s going to be a video that is going to come out soon, in the next couple of weeks, involving the department. I’m going to be honest with you. We’re going to need your support during the challenges, WITI-TV reported.
The incident occurred about 2 a.m. on January 26, 2018 at a Walgreens on 26th and National, according to WTMJ-TV. Brown was stopped by officers who were questioning him for double parking in handicapped spots. The officers said they spotted a car parked across two handicapped spots in the parking lot. Police said in a statement the officers spoke to Brown and “an electronic control device was deployed.”
Brown was taken into custody on suspicion of a misdemeanor charge of resisting or obstructing an officer, but after investigators watched the body camera footage, police decided not to refer him to prosecutors for charges. He was cited for a parking violation, police said.
The initial police report stated that Brown was inside the store when officers approached. A passenger was inside the vehicle and told officers that Brown was the one who had been driving the car. Police said in the report that when Brown came out of the Walgreens, officers asked him to step back and he refused. The report stated that Brown became “very aggressive” and “physically resisted” the officers’ attempts to handcuff him. “A taser had to be employed to get Brown in control with handcuffs,” the police report said.
But the body cam video appears to contradict what police said. A previously released surveillance video showed several police vehicles at the scene:
According to the Journal Sentinel, the internal affairs investigation into the incident was still open and ongoing as of May 22. It is not known if any criminal charges will be recommended against the officers. Brown did not face any criminal charges as a result of the incident.
Brown played in a game later on the day of his arrest and had bruises and marks on his face, the newspaper reported. He told reporters it was a “personal matter” and declined to discuss it further. Brown’s attorney has told the local media he is not going to comment on the video until it is released. In a statement released by the Bucks on Wednesday, Brown said:
There are no easy solutions to this problem, but there are strides that can be made to create change. I will do my part in helping to prevent similar incidents from happening to the minority community in the future.
This is bigger than me. My family, friends, legal team, Priority Sports, Milwaukee Bucks, the black community and the communities of all who stand against injustice plan to continue the fight. Peaceful support to ensure no further damage to our community is the only way to respond. I know many of you will share my anger and frustration, but for our community to progress and grow, we need to build on what we already have and not destroy it. I will take legal action against the Milwaukee Police Department to continue forcing change in our community.
The Milwaukee Bucks also issued a team statement:
The abuse and intimidation that Sterling experienced at the hands of Milwaukee Police was shameful and inexcusable. Sterling has our full support as he shares his story and takes action to provide accountability. Unfortunately, this isn’t an isolated case. It shouldn’t require an incident involving a professional athlete to draw attention to the fact that vulnerable people in our communities have experienced similar, and even worse, treatment.
We are grateful for the service of many good police officers that courageously protect us, our fans and our city, but racial biases and abuses of power must not be ignored. There needs to be more accountability.
The Milwaukee Police Department and local officials have acknowledged the challenges they are working to address, and we urge them to enact higher standards and more direct accountability. We all want to be able to trust each and every officer serving to protect us. Incidents like this remind us of the injustices that persist. As an organization, we will support Sterling and build on our work with local leaders and organizations to foster safe neighborhoods and better our community.
Morales, the city’s police chief, declined to comment ahead of the video’s release, telling WTMJ-TV, “I’m not going to release anything until we finalize our statement and finalize the last bits of the investigation.”
Milwaukee Police Union President Mike Crivello told the news station, “Use of force never looks good but I remind all that may hear is that the amount of force is always dictated by the individual who may be resisting the arrest.”
In a statement Wednesday, Morales said, “I also promised to change the direction of the Department and through meetings with intergovernmental partners, community-based and faith organizations, and system partners we have begun that process. The men and women of the Milwaukee Police Department are dedicated to protecting and serving the citizens of Milwaukee. We have hundreds of interactions with citizens each day and those contacts end positively. Therefore, we ask residents to work with us in our shared vision of making Milwaukee a safe place to live, work and raise a family.”