Police officers conspired to rough up Sterling Brown and celebrated after the fact, a lawsuit filed Tuesday on behalf of the Milwaukee Bucks guard alleges.
The complaint includes multiple Facebook posts from Officer Erik Andrade, one of several Milwaukee cops present for Brown’s arrest in January. In one of them, the complaint says, Andrade calls the shift that included the incident a “great time.”
Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales has already apologized for the incident and suspended a handful of the officers involved for periods ranging from two days to just over two weeks. The suit notes Morales’ efforts to change the culture of the police force, but mostly as a way of substantiating the notion that the force has been in the habit of tolerating mistreatment of black men and women for years — one of the several claims for which Brown seeks restitution from the city, the force, and the individual officers accused of violating his civil rights that night.
“I hope JR Smith double parks in Walgreens handicap Parkin spots when he’s in Milwaukee!” Andrade wrote in another post months later, after a goof from the Cleveland Cavaliers guard cost his team a chance to win Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Brown’s lawyer called that post “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.”
Andrade was one of several officers instructed to review department policies on interactions with civilians, but not among those suspended from duty over the incident. The suit includes a copy of Chief Morales’ disciplinary recommendations for other personnel in the case, noting that even there Morales’ summary of the incident reflects the dishonest narrative officers concocted immediately after realizing they’d victimized someone famous enough to kick up a media fuss.
Brown’s suit also offers a more thorough breakdown of the exact moment when he was tackled and tasered than had previously been possible from the one body camera tape released initially by the city. That footage, captured by the camera on the officer who initially confronted and touched Brown before calling for backup, doesn’t really register the immediate circumstances of the physical takedown because the officer was going around sheepishly explaining that the half-dozen responding squad cars were more help than he’d wanted.
The officers who took Brown down made a concerted plan, according to the suit. After one noticed shooting range targets in Brown’s car, a group of them took up tactical positions around him. When one of them gave a signal, the suit says, the group tackled Brown — ostensibly because he was confused when one asked if he had a concealed weapons permit and if he had his hands in his pockets on the negative-26-degree night.
The officers gave him no real chance to comply with their sudden directives, according to the suit, which notes that he was surprised by the officer’s unclearly worded question as nothing in the prior several minutes of the encounter should have given anyone reason to think he had a weapon or even understood that officers might be worried that he did.
Multiple officers went on to characterize the arrest as punitive that same night, accusing Brown of such criminal misconduct as “being stupid now,” being “passive-aggressive,” and being “a douchebag,” according to the suit. Cameras capture two officers practicing and harmonizing an official story to justify their treatment of the player and, after realizing Brown’s job, joking that they’ll see each other in the newspapers over this one.
The justification narrative they settle on omits several facts evident from the videos, the suit says, especially that police had “observed Mr. Brown for many minutes while his hands were in and out of his pockets and that Mr. Brown was actually attempting to remove his hands from his pockets after [officers] initiated their scheme to use excessive force against him.”