The Milwaukee Police Department on Wednesday released highly anticipated body camera footage of one of its officers using a Taser to subdue Milwaukee Bucks guard Sterling Brown in a Walgreens parking lot earlier this year and said it determined members of its force acted “inappropriately.”
Police Chief Alfonso Morales said officers “were recently disciplined,” without providing details on who the officers were or what penalties they were assessed.
Police Capt. Steven Cavallero said the department will release more information on the officers involved at a later date, “once all statutory requirements have been met.”
In the footage, one officer can be heard ridiculing Brown after learning he plays for the Bucks.
Officers used the Taser and arrested Brown, now 23, in the early hours of Jan. 26 after the arresting officer noticed the athlete’s car parked across two handicap parking spaces at a local Walgreens. Soon after, the officer later wrote in a police report, Brown emerged from the store and stood “within arm’s reach” of him, refused repeated requests to step back and became “very aggressive.”
The officer subsequently called for backup, after which Brown “physically resisted officers attempts to handcuff him” and “was taken to the ground in a controlled manner,” the officer said in his report.
Brown continued to resist while on the ground and as a result, the officer said, “a Taser had to be employed to get Brown in control with handcuffs.”
The 30-minute video the department released corroborates that Brown was indeed approached by the officer outside of the Walgreens. After that, the accounts differ.
After an initial, testy back-and-forth in which the officer tells Brown to “back up,” then asks his name, then quickly accuses him of failing to answer before Brown had a chance to respond, the officer calls for backup. At least four additional squad cars and a handful of officers arrive minutes later, four of whom surround Brown and begin questioning him.
Eight minutes into the video, an officer yells, “Take your hands out of your pockets now!”
Brown responds, “I’ve got stuff in my hands,” at which point at least five officers immediately tackle him, then proceed to use the stun gun on him as he’s groaning on the ground.
After Brown has been handcuffed, the officer who first arrived at the Walgreens tells him, “Sorry I don’t follow the Bucks, so I didn’t recognize you. I didn’t recognize your famous name.”
“Why else are you famous,” he continues. “You been to Mars? You been to Venus? You been to the Moon?”
Brown was booked and received a $200 parking ticket. But after looking at the reports and body camera footage, authorities decided against the arresting policeman’s request to have Brown charged with obstructing an officer.
An internal affairs investigation was opened soon thereafter.
The city’s then-police chief, Ed Flynn, told WISN-TV the department had questions about the officer’s tactics, prompting the investigation.
“What we want to do is ascertain how a parking ticket turned into a tasing.”
“We wouldn’t be conducting an investigation into this if we were 100 percent satisfied with our application of our tactics in this matter,” Flynn said at the time. “What we want to do is ascertain how a parking ticket turned into a tasing, and so that’s what we’re going to do.”
Flynn retired in February and was succeeded by Morales.
Brown, responding to the video’s release, asked for “peaceful support to ensure no further damage to our community.”
“My experience in January… was wrong and shouldn’t happen to anybody,” he said. “Situations like mine and worse happen every day in the black community.”
“The common denominator in all these situations has been racism towards the minority community, the abuse of power, and the lack of accountability for officers involved,″ he said, adding that while many will “share my anger and frustration... for our community to progress and grow, we need to build on what we already have and not destroy it.
Earlier this week, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett expressed concern with what he saw in the video, which he viewed before it was made public.
“It was a disturbing video when I saw it, and I know that [Morales] feels the same way,” Barrett said. “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.”
The police department has been proactive in preparing for a potential backlash. On Tuesday, Morales released a video in which he promised to be “honest and transparent” should there ever be “an incident where one of our members makes a mistake, unnecessarily escalating a situation.”
Two days before that, Assistant Police Chief Michael Brunson Sr. warned parishioners at a local church that an unspecified video would soon be released, and asked for their “assistance” once it was.
“There’s going to be a video that’s going to come out soon, in the next couple of weeks, involving the department,” Brunson said. “And I’m going to be honest with you, we’re going to need your support during the challenges.”
Brown’s attorney, Mark Thomsen, has said that Brown plans to file a civil rights lawsuit against the police department as a result of the incident.
This story has been updated with comments from Brown.