Milwaukee police released body-camera video Wednesday evening of the arrest of Milwaukee Bucks rookie Sterling Brown, a video the city's mayor had warned was "disconcerting" and "disturbing" as it prepared for a possible backlash. And, in a brief news conference just before the video was released, the police chief said the officers involved had been disciplined.
Brown, 23, was tased during a routine parking violation in January and reportedly plans to file a civil rights lawsuit over the episode, which has been the subject of an internal investigation by the Milwaukee Police Department. Mayor Tom Barrett had promised earlier in the week to "let the release" of the video "speak for itself."
"During the encounter, Mr. Brown was decentralized, tased and arrested," police chief Alfonso Morales said, reading from a prepared statement. "The department conducted an investigation which revealed members acted inappropriately and those members were recently disciplined."
The 6-foot-6 shooting guard was arrested around 2 a.m. on Jan. 26, when an officer doing a business check at a Walgreens spotted a vehicle parked across two parking spots reserved for disabled drivers, Milwaukee police Sgt. Timothy Gauerke told the Journal Sentinel. Brown was initially arrested on a possible misdemeanor charge of resisting or obstructing an officer, but police officials did not refer the case to prosecutors after an internal review that included viewing the body camera footage. A police spokesman told the Journal Sentinel at the time that Brown, then 22, had been cited for a parking violation. Speaking with reporters before the Bucks' game later that day, Brown's face appeared bruised and scratched, according to the paper, with Brown calling it "a personal issue."
"It was a disturbing video when I saw it, and I know that the police chief feels the same way," Barrett told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Tuesday. "And I don't know exactly what actions [the police] department is going to take, but it is disconcerting to see some of the actions in that video."
The city is now bracing for the community's reaction.
"This could be bad," an unnamed source who saw the video told the Journal Sentinel earlier this week. "The player doesn't appear to be provocative at all."
The Milwaukee police released a "Message to the Community" video Tuesday, showcasing the department's work in the community.
"In those instances where we have made mistakes and are wrong, I'm sorry," Morales, who took over the department in February, said in that video. He went on to say that he would "defend our officers when they are right and will admit when members of our organization are wrong. So if there's ever an incident where one of our members makes a mistake, unnecessarily escalating a situation, I'm going to be honest and transparent about it."
The mayor said that promotional video's release was not related to the Brown case. But speaking at a Milwaukee church during the city's Ceasefire Sabbath on Sunday, assistant police chief Michael Brunson Sr. addressed the Brown video.
"There's going to be a video that's going to come out soon, in the next couple of weeks, involving the department, and I'm going to honest with you, we're going to need your support during the challenges," he said, according to a video published by WITI-TV.
The police report from the incident said that Brown refused to step back from an officer who saw a vehicle parked across the handicapped spots, and "became very aggressive." Brown "physically resisted officers attempts to handcuff him and he was taken to the ground in a controlled manner," the police reports said, according to WISN. A stun gun was eventually used "to get Brown in control with handcuffs," according to the report. Then-police chief Ed Flynn told WISN that the subsequent investigation was meant to "ascertain how a parking ticket turned into a tasing, and so that's what we're going to do."
The Bucks have yet to comment on the Brown video.
The headlines over the incident came a little over a year after Bucks President Peter Feigin called Milwaukee a "segregated, racist place."
"We know we can't cure the world," Feigin told the Rotary Club of Madison, when discussing the impact a new Bucks arena would have on the city. "But we are very determined to get ourselves involved in programs that we can measure a difference in and put our claws into for a long period of time and show a difference.
"Very bluntly, Milwaukee is the most segregated, racist place I've ever experienced in my life," he went on. "It just is a place that is antiquated. It is in desperate need of repair and has happened for a long, long time. One of our messages and one of our goals is to lead by example."
Brown, who turned 23 in February, hails from the Chicago suburb of Maywood, Illinois, and attended Proviso East High. He chose to attend SMU to play for Larry Brown, and he was the 46th player taken in last summer's NBA draft, going to the Philadelphia 76ers in the second round. The Sixers then traded his rights to the Bucks in early July. He appeared in 54 games, averaging 4.0 points in 14.4 minutes per game.
In a June 2017 essay, he wrote of his family's basketball roots and told of duels with his older brother, Shannon, the 25th overall pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2006 NBA draft. Shannon Brown now plays in the NBA G League.
"I knew that I was going to be making this journey to the NBA when I was young because I looked at my brother and watched him do it at the highest level and that's something that motivated me to want to get to the same place," Sterling Brown wrote. "I've wanted to get to the NBA since I saw him start playing in the league. I knew I just had to keep putting in the work and I knew that I was going to make it happen."