By Bernie Woodall
(Reuters) – A National Basketball Association player on Tuesday filed a civil lawsuit in federal court alleging Milwaukee police used excessive force in a January arrest that he claims officers unnecessarily escalated from a simple parking violation.
According to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Milwaukee, Sterling Brown, a guard for the Milwaukee Bucks who is black, was wrongfully arrested and mistreated because of his race by a police department with a history of excessive force against black people.
The suit claims one of eight police officers named as defendants in the suit pulled his gun and another used a stun gun on Brown after he was already subdued and being held on the ground by several other officers.
In addition to the eight officers, the city of Milwaukee and its police chief, Alfonso Morales, are defendants in the case. Local media has reported that most of the officers involved are white.
The suit seeks unspecified damages.
Brown’s attorney, Mark Thomsen, told Reuters on Tuesday that Brown was not motivated by money in filing the suit, but rather seeks a change in the way Milwaukee police treat young black men.
Morales was named chief in February, but the suit claims he did not handle discipline of the officers well as the stiffest penalty was suspension for three of the officers, varying from two to 15 days.
Morales has previously apologized for the arrest.
A call and an email to the Milwaukee Police Department were not immediately returned on Tuesday.
The suit alleges Brown parked in a handicapped parking spot outside a drug store about 2 a.m. on Jan. 26, and was approached by a Milwaukee officer who shoved Brown and subsequently called for backup. The player was never charged with anything in the incident.
Officers surrounded Brown as they questioned him and one pulled out a gun after two policemen noticed what appeared to be targets from a gun range in the player’s car.
Brown, a 23-year-old reserve player on the NBA team, was unarmed.
“It’s simply outrageous that someone would pull their gun” in this situation where Brown posed no serious danger to any of the officers, Thomsen told Reuters.
The suit says that Brown, who was 22 at the time of the incident, “was kneed in the groin by one of the officers” before being thrown to the cold pavement during a night when the wind chill temperature was 26 degrees Fahrenheit (-3 degrees Celsius).
Brown was already on the ground held by officers when he was shocked with the stun gun in the back, the suit claims.
The suit also claims that several of the officers switched off body cameras to conceal their actions and some of them conspired to synchronize their stories after the incident.
(Reporting by Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Florida)