Milwaukee city attorney Tearman Spencer and assistant city attorney Robin A. Pederson sent a letter to the city’s Common Council on November 9, 2020, recommending the out-of-court settlement, admission of a constitutional rights violation, and a commitment to police procedural changes in response to the lawsuit.
A 2019 settlement offer by the city for $400,000 was rejected by Brown. Thomsen stated the main reason for the rejection was the city’s failure to admit guilt for violating Brown’s constitutional rights.
The lawsuit stemmed from an altercation between Brown and Milwaukee cops over a parking violation. Brown had parked his vehicle diagonally, thereby taking up two handicapped parking spots outside a pharmacy.
When he exited, he found police Officer Joseph Grams at his vehicle. Grams asked Brown for his driver’s license, then ordered him to back away. Brown alleged Grams shoved him after he told Grams not to touch him.
Grams radioed for back-up officers. Three cars responded. One car left with the cops from the two remaining cars encircling Brown. Bodycam videos show police telling Brown to remove his hands from his pockets and Brown refusing, saying he had “stuff” in them. The situation then went rapidly downhill, ending with Brown being pushed to the ground, Tased, and one cop stepping on one of his ankles.
Although Brown was arrested, he was not criminally charged. In his original lawsuit complaint, Brown alleged the reason cops used what he termed excessive force against him is because he is Black. He later complained cops treated his parking violation as a criminal offense, and he was never given a Miranda warning.
A statement from the Bucks expressed pleasure at the out-of-court settlement. It read in part, “that Sterling’s lawsuit has been mutually resolved…. No one should ever have to go through the horrifying abuse and injustice that Sterling experienced. We commend Sterling for his courageous response to this terrible situation by repeatedly sharing his story and working tirelessly with countless local groups and organizations to help make change in the community,” referring to the agreed commitment by the city to policy and procedural changes within the police department.
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