Court Watch

Officer Threatened to Tow Brown’s Car

In testimony police sergeant admits no legal basis for threats against Bucks player Sterling Brown.

By , Wisconsin Justice Initiative - Dec 30th, 2019 01:18 pm
Police Administration Building, 951 N. James Lovell St. Photo by Christopher Hillard.

Police Administration Building, 951 N. James Lovell St. Photo by Christopher Hillard.

The Milwaukee police sergeant who threatened to tow Sterling Brown‘s car during a confrontation in a Walgreen’s parking lot in January 2018 admitted in a deposition that he had no legal basis to make such a threat, according to Federal Court records.

“I’m talking about when you’re talking to Mr. Brown unprofessionally – using your words – and you told him, ‘Let’s tow the car,’ you had no basis to tow the car at that point in time. Correct?” attorney Mark Thomsen asked.

“That’s correct,” Sgt. Jeffrey Krueger responded during his May deposition.

Krueger also admitted he failed in his supervisory duties when he arrived at the scene and did not bother to learn what was happening before injecting himself into the situation.

“As a supervisor, I failed to do – one of my duties was to figure out what was going on beforehand,” he testified.

Krueger, a 13-year-veteran, also said he was not aware of any Milwaukee police officers being disciplined during that time for excessive use of force or racist conduct.

Krueger arrived at Walgreen’s after Brown, a Milwaukee Bucks player, was detained in a Walgreen’s parking lot after he parked illegally in a handicapped space at about 2 a.m. Brown eventually was confronted by several officers, including Krueger, and was taken to the ground, tased, stepped on, and arrested.

After the incident, in a squad car and after Brown was recognized as an athlete, Krueger was caught on a body camera saying, “We are trying to protect ourselves.”

He did not know the camera was on when he made the statement.

Krueger eventually was suspended for 10 days for failing to be a role model for professional police service.

Brown has filed a lawsuit alleging the officers violated his constitutional rights and his lawyer, Mark Thomsen, has filed several deposition excerpts in the case.

The City of Milwaukee and other defendants have denied violating Brown’s rights.

Assistant City Attorney Naomi Gehling objected repeatedly to Thomsen’s questions during Krueger’s deposition. They are part of the full transcript here.

After Brown’s arrest, officers involved, including Krueger, were ordered to undergo remedial training, which included watching video of the incident and discussing what went wrong, which Thomsen asked about during Kruger’s deposition:

Thomsen: What were the officers told went wrong?

Krueger: It was about professional communication.

Thomsen: So what about professional communication was wrong?

Krueger: There was many examples where it wasn’t used in this incident.

Thomsen: Okay. Tell the jury what all those examples are….

Krueger:  Officer (Joseph J.) Grams – how he spoke to Mr. Brown.

Thomsen: Okay. What else?

Krueger: How my discussion with Mr. Brown went.

Thomsen: So what was wrong with your discussion with Mr. Brown?

Krueger: It wasn’t very professional….I became frustrated, and that caused me to say,
like, “You know, you’re bothering me.” So –

Thomsen: What else?…

Krueger: I just – I think the overall demeanor that I had, we talked about that.

Thomsen: What about your overall demeanor was inappropriate, sir?

Krueger: It wasn’t – my overall – Well, my demeanor was not professional.

Thomsen: In what way, sir?

Krueger: Well, how I talked to him.

Thomsen: And please explain to the jury the details of that.

Krueger: Well, I told him he was bothering me, and that’s the biggest one that sticks out to me.

Thomsen: You threatened to tow his truck – I mean tow his car.

Krueger: Correct….

Thomsen: I’m talking about when you’re talking to Mr. Brown unprofessionally – using your words – and you told him, “Let’s tow the car,” you had no basis to tow the car at that point in time. Correct?

Krueger: That’s correct.

***

Thomsen: Okay. So at the point you first approach him, he’d already been detained. Right?

Krueger: Yes.

Thomsen: There had been no basis – no reasonable suspicion that he had committed a crime for him being detained. Correct?

Krueger: I’m about to – At the time I didn’t know what the interaction between Officer Grams and him were – or was, so I didn’t know necessarily – Well, I did not know what had transpired….

Thomsen: Right. So you failed to ask Officer Grams what the situation was. Correct?

Krueger: Correct.

Thomsen: You failed to ask Mr. Brown what was going on. Correct?

Krueger: Correct.

Thomsen: You failed to ask his date what was going on. Correct?

Krueger: Correct.

Krueger reported to internal affairs that he saw a gun in Brown’s car, but told Thomsen he misspoke. He said he believed Brown might be armed in part because there was a shooting target in his car’s back seat and because Brown appeared upset when Krueger looked into Brown’s car.

Thomsen: Citizens have a right to have targets in the back seat of their car. Correct?

Krueger: Yes, sir.

Thomsen: Citizens have the right to have targets with holes in the back seat of a car. Correct?

Krueger: Yes, sir.

Thomsen: And the fact that there’s a target with holes in the back seat of a car does not constitute a reasonable suspicion that a person is armed. Correct?

Krueger: Correct.

Thomsen: ​I mean, this is Officer Grams telling his supervisor – you – right after Mr. Brown is tased “Hey, if he just wouldn’t have been a dick, I would have just said, ‘Hey, here you go.'” Right?

Krueger: That’s what he said. Yes….

Thomsen: Now, were you also in the vehicle when Officer (James P.) Collins was calling Mr. Brown a douchebag?

Krueger: I’m – Yes, I was in a squad car when that happened.

Thomsen: You agree that Officer Collins had no basis to be standing on Mr. Brown’s leg. Correct?

Krueger: I don’t know the context of when he was standing on his foot. It’s not a trained technique.

Thomsen: It’s clearly an unreasonable use of force. Correct?

Krueger: I don’t know how much force was applied. I would call it “untrained and probably inappropriate,” but “unreasonable”? I don’t know.

Thomsen: You have been on the force for how many years, did you say?

Krueger: 13.

Thomsen: And in those 13 years, are you aware of any Milwaukee Police Department officers that have been disciplined for excessive use of force?

Krueger: I don’t recall. Excessive use of force? No, I don’t.

Thomsen: And in those same 13 years, are you aware of any officers that have ever been disciplined for racist conduct?

Krueger: No. Not that I recall.

Gretchen Schuldt writes a blog for Wisconsin Justice Initiative, whose mission is “To improve the quality of justice in Wisconsin by educating the public about legal issues and encouraging civic engagement in and debate about the judicial system and its operation.

2 thoughts on “Court Watch: Officer Threatened to Tow Brown’s Car”

  1. Neal Brenard says:

    Too many police. Once again, if there are available even the three or four officers mentioned in this case to respond to a complaint about a parking violation at a convenience store at 2 am in the morning, there are way too many police in service. This goes back, of course, to the Clinton administration of the 90s and their calculated over-reaction to what was, already, at that time, a rapidly reducing violent crime rate, by landing legislation that added over 100,000 police jobs in a country that had already become, for most day-to-day practices, a police state. It’s hard to blame police officers themselves when so many of them are clearly hired without need; when so many are hired without proper training and qualification, and without the kind of supervision that might give them a clue why tasing a guy for a parking violation under any circumstance, is uncalled for.

    Politicians and voters, ultimately, with their unfounded fears, are to blame mostly, for the racist violence committed by police we hear about so often. There are simply too many police; it’s long past time to reduce the size of the force dramatically and let ours return to a society ruled by its citizens, not it’s state-sanctioned police operation.

  2. mkwagner says:

    Neal, you are way over stating the case for fewer police officers. Ask yourself, if the person who parked illegally was JK Scott or Mason Crosby, would 7 police officers have shown up? The answer is categorically no. Why, because JK and Mason are white. What happened to Sterling Brown have everything to do with the color of his skin. While Sterling’s inflated male ego may have contributed to the situation. There is no excuse for the behavior of the police officers. It takes only 1 officer to write out the $150 ticket for parking in a handicapped space.
    Police officers are paid to de-escalate situations. There are, however, too many incidents between the police and African American men. As with Sterling Brown, the is no attempt to de-escalate. Instead, it is the police who are the aggressors. Too many unarmed African American men are killed by officers who claim they feared for their life. If an officer is that afraid of unarmed men, he or she has no business being a police officer. The oath police officers take is to serve first and then protect. There is no mention that they only serve white communities and protect against African American communities.
    That is institutional racism at its starkest. It is time to call out and punish racist behavior on the part of police officers.

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