Officer's 'racist' posts key to Sterling Brown suit against Milwaukee police

The NBA's Sterling Brown, who was tased and arrested earlier this year after an altercation stemming from a parking v...

Posted: Jun 20, 2018 2:39 PM
Updated: Jun 20, 2018 2:39 PM

The NBA's Sterling Brown, who was tased and arrested earlier this year after an altercation stemming from a parking violation, filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the city of Milwaukee, the police chief and the eight officers involved in his arrest.

Key to the suit will be one of the officers' alleged social media posts, which appear to celebrate the actions of the officers, three of whom were suspended without pay. Though an initial police report described Brown as aggressive, Police Chief Alfonso Morales has since apologized for the officers' behavior, saying they acted "inappropriately." Mayor Tom Barrett said, "No citizen should be treated this way."

The lawsuit alleges, among other things, unlawful arrest, excessive use of force and violation of the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause. It also accuses the officers of collaborating to conceal their actions. It seeks compensatory and punitive damages, stating that Brown suffered "unnecessary and severe personal physical and psychological and emotional injuries."

Read the complaint for yourself

According to the lawsuit, in addition to discriminating against Brown because he's black and violating his rights by treating a parking violation as a criminal offense, officers also failed to read Brown his Miranda rights. Also, at certain points some of the officers turned off their bodycams, the suit says.

It also accuses one of the officers, Sgt. Jeffrey Krueger, of firing his Taser on four previous occasions "that did not result in charges being brought against his victims."

"For too long, African-American men have been arrested and abused and killed as a result of bad police work," Brown's attorney, Mark Thomsen, said. "That work is a stain on this city and an insult to good police officers in this city and county."

Reached for comment, the Milwaukee Police Department said Morales will review the incident during a Thursday morning meeting "and will be available for comment afterward."

The altercation began when the Milwaukee Bucks shooting guard exited a drug store early January 26 to find an officer -- identified in the lawsuit as Officer Joseph Grams -- outside his car, which was parked across two handicapped parking spots.

It quickly escalated after Grams shoved Brown and Brown told the officer not to touch him. Grams called for backup and seven officers responded, according to the lawsuit and bodycam video released earlier this month.

Officer's Facebook posts

Tuesday's lawsuit singles out Officer Erik Andrade, one of the responding officers -- not so much for his actions during the arrest, but for his social media posts after the incident.

Some of those posts mocked Brown, according to the lawsuit:

  • "Nice meeting Sterling Brown of the Milwaukee Bucks at work this morning! LOL #FeartheDeer," Andrade wrote on Facebook, referencing the Bucks' rallying cry.
  • Responding to a shared story about Brown's arrest -- which tagged Andrade and said, "let the man get his early morning craving of popcorn" -- Andrade responded with a laughing emoji.
  • In response to another post from someone saying they wanted Andrade's autograph because Andrade was featured in a YouTube video of Brown's arrest, Andrade responded, "I didn't arrest him lol."
  • Andrade also shared a post showing three pictures of black men, including Brown, that said, "Yes, whenever something happens it's always a epidemic of racism, police brutality or whatever lies these failed liberal hand picked so-called liberal black leaders come up with." Above the post, Andrade wrote, "A little truth to those who wanna listen."
  • After Game 1 of the NBA Finals, during which the Cleveland Cavaliers' J.R. Smith committed a gaffe by letting the time run out when the game was tied, Andrade posted on Facebook, "I hope JR Smith double parks in Walgreens handicap parking spots when he's in Milwaukee."

Of the Smith post, the lawsuit says, "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 lawsuit also alleges Andrade made other insensitive and racially charged posts:

  • Andrade wrote, "Damn.....more naps than a preschool! Lmao" above a photo of an ice cream cone with chocolate sprinkles juxtaposed with an image of the back of NBA superstar Kevin Durant's head. The caption reads, "Who wore it better?"
  • "What comes to mind when I'm at work and I'm driving down Greenfield Ave. smh," Andrade wrote in one post, which featured a graphic that said, "Sick and Tide of these hoes" and featured the logo for Tide laundry detergent. Greenfield Avenue is a prostitution hub in Milwaukee.
  • Andrade seemed to celebrate using force in one post, saying, "Had great time workin replacement over in D5 the other day....5+ OT and a use of force. Lol."
  • In a May 3 post about a man fighting with Milwaukee police, Andrade wrote, "Let's see the whole video now since people are cryin police brutality and how officers are beating an innocent black man for no reason. You social media educated fools are too much sometimes."
  • In response to a news story about Milwaukee enacting a policy against mass incarceration, Andrade wrote, "It's hilarious when people talk about mass incarceration lmao like wtf is that???? Mostly all the people I deal with at work do not stay locked up when they should be. Last time I checked if you don't commit crimes you don't get incarcerated."

Two sets of bodycam footage

The Milwaukee Police Association initially defended the officers who arrested Brown, calling use of force "a necessary component of policing" and slamming city leaders for failing to defend the officers.

After a batch of bodycam footage was made public this month, the union softened its tone, saying it welcomes "appropriate review and oversight" of the matter.

The first bodycam footage, released in May, contradicted the initial police account and showed the situation escalated into a testy confrontation in a matter of seconds.

Brown, who was 22 at the time, and an officer approach each other. While asking the Bucks rookie for his license, the officer tells Brown to back up and lightly shoves him immediately upon giving the command. After Brown tells the officer repeatedly not to touch him, the officer calls for backup, prompting at least three more squad cars to descend on the scene.

Multiple officers surround Brown at his car and ask him questions. At one point, an officer yells at Brown to take his hands out of his pockets, and Brown says he has "stuff" in his pocket. Other officers grab the athlete and pull him to the ground before he's tased. Brown groans from the shock.

The second batch of footage was released earlier this month and shows an officer stepping on the subdued Brown's ankle during his arrest, despite his legs lying motionless on the ground after he was tased. It also shows other officers mocking the NBA player.

At one point, according to the lawsuit, Grams, who initiated the stop, can be heard saying to himself, "What is wrong with these people, man?"

Ten of the 15 aldermen on the Milwaukee Common Council expressed concern that the second batch of footage was not included among video shared with the council two months prior. They demanded transparency, as well as "swift and appropriate action to all those involved who violated MPD policies and procedures," the aldermen's open letter said.

Brown was issued a parking ticket but was not charged with a crime after the incident. Hours later, sports reporters said Brown had a bruise and scab on his face before a game that night against the Brooklyn Nets.

Officers suspended

The incident prompted an internal affairs investigation. Two sergeants were suspended without pay -- for 10 and 15 days, respectively -- for "failing to be a role model for professional police service," while another officer was suspended for two days for "failing to treat a member of the public with courtesy and professionalism."

Eight others will receive remedial training in professional communications, officials said.

The Milwaukee Bucks said the officers' actions were shameful and inexcusable.

"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," the team said.

Brown released a statement, he said, on behalf of Laquan McDonald, Stephon Clark and others in the black community who have been killed during police encounters.

"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," he said in the statement.

Milwaukee police were so concerned about the initial release of bodycam footage last month that, before its release, Assistant Police Chief Michael Brunson told parishioners of a Milwaukee church that the department was bracing for backlash.

"There's going to be a video that's going to come out soon, in the next couple of weeks, involving the department," said Brunson, according to CNN affiliate WITI. "And I'm going to be honest with you, we're going to need your support during the challenges."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 61125

Reported Deaths: 1711
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds5269106
DeSoto332627
Madison229756
Harrison215232
Rankin214628
Jackson199434
Jones177457
Forrest164053
Washington149232
Lauderdale132988
Lee123930
Neshoba119788
Lamar112112
Oktibbeha105435
Lowndes98932
Warren96427
Scott95517
Bolivar94832
Copiah91724
Panola91211
Sunflower90822
Lafayette88111
Holmes84747
Leflore84059
Pike83232
Grenada81320
Yazoo78611
Leake76825
Lincoln74540
Pontotoc7377
Wayne73321
Simpson71227
Monroe70250
Coahoma66310
Tate65023
Marion60118
Covington58811
Adams58425
Marshall5718
Winston57115
George5475
Union53113
Newton51611
Attala49824
Tallahatchie49310
Pearl River48536
Walthall45318
Chickasaw43819
Noxubee41910
Claiborne40013
Smith38013
Calhoun3788
Jasper3768
Clay37013
Alcorn3574
Prentiss3426
Hancock33614
Tishomingo3204
Lawrence3135
Tippah31212
Yalobusha31210
Itawamba30710
Clarke30025
Montgomery2933
Tunica2786
Humphreys27111
Carroll24511
Greene22611
Quitman2251
Kemper22315
Perry2227
Amite2105
Jefferson Davis2026
Webster19912
Jefferson1936
Wilkinson18712
Sharkey1801
Stone1523
Choctaw1274
Benton1250
Franklin1162
Issaquena211
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 90890

Reported Deaths: 1611
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson11859225
Mobile9086191
Montgomery6249143
Madison501425
Tuscaloosa397463
Baldwin321023
Shelby305032
Marshall296630
Unassigned273453
Lee250540
Morgan222315
Etowah193026
DeKalb170113
Elmore160237
Calhoun15609
Walker147063
Houston131912
Dallas128823
Russell12331
St. Clair121712
Franklin119620
Limestone119613
Cullman114111
Colbert109312
Lauderdale107112
Autauga102420
Escambia97915
Talladega91813
Jackson8283
Chambers82138
Tallapoosa81478
Dale78520
Butler75235
Blount7363
Chilton7106
Coffee7095
Covington70920
Pike6607
Barbour5635
Lowndes55224
Marion54224
Marengo52014
Clarke4869
Hale45926
Bullock43811
Perry4294
Winston42911
Wilcox4059
Monroe3914
Randolph38810
Bibb3743
Conecuh37310
Pickens3679
Sumter36118
Lawrence3100
Washington31011
Macon30913
Crenshaw2863
Choctaw27412
Henry2453
Cherokee2427
Greene24211
Geneva2320
Clay2175
Lamar1982
Fayette1745
Cleburne1211
Coosa922
Out of AL00
Tupelo
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 70°
Columbus
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 70°
Oxford
Overcast
66° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 66°
Starkville
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 68°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather