At a time when the tactics employed by police officers is coming under fire throughout the country, it would appear as though Minnesota is in the same boat as many other areas of the country.
Last week, an uproar took place in the Twin Cities when two Minneapolis Police Department officers wouldn’t be criminally charged in the shooting of 24-year old Jamar Clark. Now a Minnesota Vikings defensive player is going on the offensive with the officers and the City of Minneapolis.
On Monday, defensive tackle Tom Johnson filed a $75,000 lawsuit against Minneapolis Police officers Patrick McCarver and John Laluzerne and the City of Minneapolis, according to the Star Tribune, action stemming from an October 2014 incident in which the officers pepper-sprayed and Tasered Johnson outside Seven, a steakhouse/nightclub at 700 Hennepin Ave. in downtown Minneapolis.
In court filings, Johnson accuses the officers of several civil rights violations, including excessive force, false arrest and unreasonable seizure. The filing claims the incident has left Johnson “injured, jailed, publicly humiliated and ultimately forced to defend himself from criminal charges.”
Johnson was acquitted of all charges in June 2015. In the police report of the October 2014 incident, police claimed that Johnson ignored repeated commands from the officers and staff at Seven to leave because it was past closing time. He faced charges of trespassing, disorderly conduct and interfering with a police officer – all misdemeanor charges.
In Johnson’s lawsuit, he alleges that problems with the staff at Seven began because Johnson was wearing a pair of Timberland boots, which is a violation of the club’s dress code. The uniformed officers, who were working as off-duty security, Johnson alleges, escalated the incident themselves. The officers were yelling at him to leave and he was pepper-sprayed.
Once outside the club, Johnson alleges he tried to record the incident on his iPhone. He claims McCarver “swatted” the phone out of his hand and then used a Taser on him.
Through his attorney, Johnson alleges that the officers’ improper escalation of the event and use of unreasonable force has been the result of a common practice among police officers for the City of Minneapolis and that the city has shown “deliberate indifference to the use of such unreasonable force and false arrests.”
The suit contends that both officers were awarded citations of merit from the Minneapolis Police Department in February 2015.
At the time of his acquittal in June 2015, Johnson’s agent, Bardia Ghahremani, said his client had every plan to sue the officers. A jury acquitted Johnson after just 15 minutes of deliberation. The testimony include video shot by Johnson on his iPhone before the officer slapped it out of his hand. Because, as Johnson contends, the incident had ramifications on him that went beyond having to face the charges and win an acquittal.
It is common practice in the NFL for teams to monitor player activity and conduct their own background checks on potential free agents as part of their due diligence before signing them. Johnson was going to be a free agent at the end of the 2014 season and he believes this incident, which also got him placed into the NFL’s intervention program, which often doesn’t give the presumption of innocence, damaged his chances of signing a contract in an open-market setting.
For many victims of the actions of aggressive police officers, there is rarely the recourse of going after them in the court system. Johnson has the resources to afford attorneys to seek what he feels would be justice for the actions of the officers, who have previously been sued for their actions during an arrest.
No date has yet been set when the case will be placed on the federal court docket.