Vikings' Tom Johnson files suit against police for excessive force

ByBen Goessling via ESPN logo
Tuesday, April 5, 2016

MINNEAPOLIS --Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Tom Johnson has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against two Minneapolis police officers he accused of using excessive force in connection with Johnson's Oct. 2014 arrest.

In the 32-page lawsuit, Johnson accused the two off-duty officers -- John LaLuzerne and Patrick McCarver -- of unreasonable seizure, false arrest and use of excessive force. He alleged that the two officers, while working security at Seven restaurant in downtown Minneapolis, were the ones who started a confrontation that ended with Johnson being hit with pepper spray, subdued with a stun gun and arrested. Johnson, who is seeking $75,000 in damages from the lawsuit, said he was "injured, jailed, publicly humiliated and ultimately forced to defend himself from criminal charges" following a police report that claimed the 31-year-old started the altercation.

Johnson was acquitted last June of the two misdemeanor charges stemming from his arrest, but said in his lawsuit he "suffered irreparable harm as a result" of the incident.

According to the lawsuit, the defensive tackle had been at Seven with a friend the night of Oct. 5, 2014, and had one drink with two other Vikings players at the bar. Johnson walked past Bryant Webster, Seven's security manager, who raised no objection to the defensive tackle's wardrobe when he entered the restaurant, the lawsuit claims. However, later that evening, when Johnson was waiting to retrieve his car from the valet and tried to wait inside with other patrons at closing time, rather than standing outside in the cool fall weather, Webster allegedly told Johnson to leave because his Timberland boots violated the club's unwritten dress code.

At that point, according to the lawsuit, LaLuzerne and McCarver came from inside the bar and demanded Johnson leave. The police report filed after Johnson's arrest claimed the defensive tackle was unwilling to leave; the lawsuit, however, says surveillance video showed Johnson was "retreating" to the exit and "walking backward" away from the officers. At that point, the lawsuit alleges, McCarver sprayed Johnson in the face with pepper spray. Later, as Johnson realized he would be unable to drive himself home and waited for a car service, he used his cellphone to take photos of the approaching officers. The lawsuit claims the officers agreed Johnson would be arrested, and that McCarver used a stun gun on Johnson's back after swatting his cellphone out of his hand while Johnson was taking video of the officers. Through his agent, Johnson had released video of the alleged altercation shortly after his arrest.

Johnson also alleged that the officers were each given a Minneapolis police department award of merit in Feb. 2015, instead of facing discipline for their actions. Lieutenant Bob Kroll, head of the Minneapolis police officers union, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that Johnson wanted "special treatment because he's a Viking," adding the officers were justified in their actions.