Court Watch

Police Officer Denies Stepping on Sterling Brown

But video shows he did. More testimony from controversial 2018 arrest of Bucks player

By , Wisconsin Justice Initiative - Feb 19th, 2020 11:05 am
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Body Worn Camera Video Release of Sterling Brown Arrest

Body Worn Camera Video Release of Sterling Brown Arrest

A Milwaukee police officer repeatedly denied under oath stepping or standing on Milwaukee Bucks player Sterling Brown‘s leg after Brown was tased in a Walgreen’s parking lot, even though a video clearly shows the officer did so.

“He was kicking at the time. I put my foot against his leg to prevent him from kicking anymore,” Officer James Collins said. “I did not step on his leg. I did not stomp on his leg.” The start of the video shows that Brown moved his legs but did not kick in the moments before Collins stepped on him.

Brown was confronted by several Milwaukee police officers after he parked illegally in a handicapped parking space at a Walgreens parking lot about 2 a.m. Jan. 26, 2018. He was tased, taken to the ground, handcuffed, and arrested.

He has filed a lawsuit alleging the officers violated his constitutional rights. His attorney, Mark Thomsen, has filed several deposition excerpts. This is another in a series of stories with excerpts of the depositions.

The full transcript of Collins’ deposition is here.

The City of Milwaukee and other defendants in the suit have denied Brown’s allegations.

After the incident, the officers involved, including Collins, were ordered to take remedial training that included showing video of and critiquing officers’ conduct during the event,

Collins acknowledged that he was told during the training that his action was inappropriate.

“They (officers in charge of the training) said it was inappropriate, yes. They did not say I was standing — I don’t believe they used the terminology “standing,” but I was informed that I was blocking. I was not standing on his leg,” he testified.

“They told you specifically it was inappropriate,” said Thomsen, Brown’s lawyer.

Collins: Yes.

Thomsen: It was an unreasonable use of force. Correct?

Collins: Yes….

Thomsen: And you’ve just told me under oath that your standing on Mr. Brown’s leg was not reasonable. Correct?

Collins: I was not standing on his leg.

Thomsen: Your — whatever you want to say….

Collins: I was blocking his foot with my foot.

Thomsen: And it was not reasonable use of force. Correct?

Collins: That’s what I was told, yes.

Thomsen: I want to know, do you believe it?

Collins: I don’t believe it, no….I did not stand on his leg. I was blocking his leg with my foot.

The topic came up again later.

Thomsen: So why do you think you got two days off for calling Mr. Brown a douchebag, but you didn’t get any time off for actually having your foot on his leg?

Collins: My foot was blocking his foot. It was not on his foot. You keep implying that I was stepping on it. I was not stepping on his foot. I was not stepping on his leg. ​

***
Thomsen: Do you agree based on the training that you received that because Mr. Brown was not allowed to leave, his constitutional rights were violated?

Collins: Knowing that it was just a parking citation, yes.

***

Thomsen: You searched Mr. Brown after the arrest. Correct?

Collins: Yes.

Thomsen: And did you find anything illegal on Mr. Brown?

Collins: No.

Thomsen: Would you agree that Mr. Brown did not commit a crime?

Collins: I believe he did commit a crime of resisting police.

Thomsen: And tell me, how do you get to that conclusion?

Collins: He was asked several times to take his hands out of his pockets. He refused. Then he starts slowly pulling his hands out of his pockets. I could visibly see something black and shiny in his left hand. At that time Sergeant (Jeffrey) Krueger, Sergeant (Sean A.) Mahnke and other officers grabbed his arms, trying to pull them out of his pockets to secure them in handcuffs. He physically resisted. He was pulling away at the officers, dragging them around the parking lot a little bit. That’s why I intervened. I grabbed Mr. Brown by his head, pulled it inwards, told him to get on the ground several times. He refused. I gave him one, possibly two knee strikes into the sternum, when we finally got him on the ground where he continued to resist.

***
Collins admitted calling a Brown a “douchebag,” and said the comment was made to other people, not to Brown directly.

Thomsen: So why are you calling Mr. Brown a douchebag?

Collins: Because he was acting like a fool.

Thomsen: Do you agree based on the training that you received that because Mr. Brown was not allowed to leave, his constitutional rights were violated?

Collins: Knowing that it was just a parking citation, yes.

Thomsen: Tell me. How is that?

Collins: During the entire encounter, what I observed and heard, every time he was asked to do something, he would bring up, “Well, why do I have to do that?” If you asked a question, instead of answering the question, he would ask another question instead of answering the question he was given.

Thomsen: Sir, I thought you trained in constitutional rights. Right?

Collins: Yes.

Thomsen: A citizen has a right to ask officers questions. Right?

Collins: Yes, they do.

Thomsen: Okay. And they can ask questions all day long. Right?

Collins: Yes.

Thomsen: Actually, they could be yelling and screaming at you and calling you names and swearing. Correct?

Collins: Yes.

Thomsen: So what is it about Mr. Brown that made you call him a douchebag, sir?

Collins: It’s nothing about Mr. Brown. I use that term for a lot of people. It’s one of my favorite words. I didn’t use the term towards Mr. Brown whatsoever. I never used it once in his presence.

Thomsen: So why did you say he was a douchebag?

Collins: At the time of his conduct, yes, he was being a douchebag.

Thomsen: Because he had the audacity to ask you a question?

Collins: He was — I wasn’t — He was not asking me questions.

Thomsen: He was asking your sergeant questions.

Collins: You just said “asking me.” He did not ask me any questions.

Thomsen: Well, fair enough. So he had the audacity to ask your sergeant questions about why he was being treated the way he was instead of just getting a ticket. Right?

Collins: If he would have answered the questions he was given instead of asking questions on top of the questions that he was given instead of answering the questions, being a little more compliant with his answers, maybe he wouldn’t have been a douchebag.

Thomsen: You know, maybe if you would have recognized his constitutional rights and treated him like a human being, you wouldn’t be sitting here.

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.

More about the Sterling Brown Case

One thought on “Court Watch: Police Officer Denies Stepping on Sterling Brown”

  1. mkwagner says:

    There is the problem. Collins knows that Brown had a constitutional right to ask questions but did not recognized that his actions were a violation of Brown’s constitutional rights. He doesn’t believe he did anything wrong because denying constitutional rights of African Americans is standard operating procedures. We have a racist police force that is unable to admit that their racism is making this city less safe for everyone.

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