MILWAUKEE -- Sterling Brown's attorney called the city's 51-page response to Brown's civil rights lawsuit, which blames Brown, an "absurd accusation" Tuesday, Aug. 28. This, after Brown's January arrest in which a Taser was used after Brown double parked in a handicapped parking spot outside Walgreens near 27th and National.
"The nation's eyes are on our city. That's not how you start a new beginning," said Mark Thomsen, Brown's attorney.
Brown is suing the City of Milwaukee, Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales and eight Milwaukee police officers. His complaint claims he was unlawfully arrested and the Taser was used because of his race. He was never charged.
On Friday, Aug. 24 Milwaukee's city attorney filed a 51-page response to that lawsuit. Language in the document blames Brown for the incident, saying "the injuries and damages sustained by the plaintiff, if any, were caused in whole or part by their own acts or omissions."
"An accusation that Mr. Brown was somehow responsible for the violation of his civil rights -- it's absurd. Everybody has seen the video," said Thomsen.
The city's argument in court was not the city's argument in public.
"I talked to the city attorney on Saturday. He indicated it was filed as a legal response. The mistake, if I can call it a mistake... is that there should have been something that explained that was a legal response," said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.
The police chief and the mayor have both publicly apologized to Brown for the incident.
"As I said when the incident occurred, I apologized to Mr. Brown. It was not the way our police officers should have treated him," said Barrett.
In a statement, the city attorney's office said the document was not a motion to dismiss the case, and it also does not "eliminate the opportunity to resolve this legal dispute before trial."
"There are many ways they could've handled this differently. Frankly, they didn't have to answer. They could've called any time before and said 'let's sit down and figure out what we can do to resolve it,'" said Thomsen.
Chief Morales declined to comment on this story.
Mayor Barrett said he hopes this can be resolved before it goes to trial.
Community leaders, including members of the African-American Roundtable, BLOC (Black Leaders Organizing Communities), UBLAC (Uplifting Black Liberation and Community) and Voces de la Frontera also spoke out on Tuesday:
“Voces de la Frontera strongly condemns City Attorney Grant Langley’s shocking response, denying that Sterling Brown’s rights were violated, despite the fact that it was evident to everyone. As well we are critical of the very light accountability that was given in this very aggressive attack. There is no question for anyone who saw the video that excessive use of force was used, and we know that can quickly escalate to people losing their lives. It is not anti-police, it is not anti-public safety to demand accountability and respect for victims after law enforcement officers have abused their power against an individual. We’re here to stand with Sterling Brown and all the other victims in the African-American, Latino, Asian, and refugee communities who have been disproportionately affected by racial profiling and police violence," said Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of Voces de la Frontera.
On Wednesday, Milwaukee Common Council members issued the below joint statement:
From Alderman Ashanti Hamilton, Alderman José G. Pérez, Alderman Nik Kovac, Alderman Cavalier “Chevy” Johnson, Alderwoman Chantia Lewis, Alderman Mark A. Borkowski, Alderman Tony Zielinski, Alderman Bob Donovan, Alderwoman Milele A. Coggs, Alderman Robert J. Bauman, Alderman Khalif J. Rainey, Alderman Michael Murphy, and Alderman Russell W. Stamper, II:
"As Council members we’ve had front row seats to witness far too many situations where the law fails to deliver justice. Despite how we may sometimes feel about the legal process we must remember that it is important to honor that process. While this is a national issue we have had more than our fair share here
locally. We are striving to be better stewards of administering justice, and it is in that spirit that we make this joint statement.
The City Attorney's legal response to the petition filed by Sterling Brown's attorney does not reflect the policy position of the city. We hold that every resident should be approached with the highest level of professionalism and always treated with dignity and respect by all city employees. The content of the bodyworn
camera videos from the incident with Sterling Brown clearly do not reflect what we expect from police officers or any other city employee.
As a Council, we are calling for unity from the many people who are rightly paying close attention to this case. We think that this case – and the too many others like it in our community and beyond – should get all of us to focus on enacting the systematic change we have been calling for.
We are collectively redirecting our efforts to identify solutions (including the directives to the MPD that are a part of the stop-and-frisk lawsuit settlement with the ACLU) that will prevent incidents like the one involving Sterling Brown and others in the community from occurring in the future."
The Milwaukee Bucks also issued a statement Wednesday:
“Sterling continues to have our full support. What happened to him was shameful and inexcusable. We remain optimistic that meaningful progress can be made in our community in response to this incident. As we’ve stated, our organization is committed to work with local leaders and organizations to foster safe neighborhoods and better our community.”