ROBBINSDALE, Minn. (WCCO) — A routine traffic stop has led to a lawsuit against a Robbinsdale Police officer.
Melvin Newbern, a former Gopher’s basketball star, is suing Officer Brian Sloat, claiming the officer used excessive force in an arrest in early 2013.
Dash-cam video captured on the morning of Feb. 13, 2013 shows Sloat putting Newbern through a field sobriety test after stopping him on suspicion of drunk driving.
Newbern was blocks from home when he was pulled over on Victory Memorial Drive, according to attorney Andy Noel.
“He was on the way back from his doctor’s appointment,” Noel said.
According to the police report, after cooperating on a number of field sobriety tests, Newbern refused to do anymore.
That’s when Sloat asked him to sit in the back of the squad. Dash-cam video shows Newbern trying to get into the back of the squad two separate times. Each time he quickly got out.
“He’s telling Officer Sloat, ‘I’ll go with you, I’m just having a lot of trouble getting into that squad car,” Noel said. “You know, Mr. Newbern is a big man, so he was having trouble.”
A short time later, Sloat arrested Newbern for obstructing the legal process. Newbern was handcuffed, but what happened next was the basis for the excessive-force lawsuit.
Noel says Sloat kneed Newbern in the back, which caused him to fall to the ground and hit his head. A doctor later diagnosed Newbern with a concussion.
“The subject has no ability to break his fall, he’s on the street,” Noel said. “The risk of taking someone’s legs out could cause very serious injury.”
Noel says Newbern, who’s a law-enforcement officer himself, sees this as a case of right and wrong. But now it’s up to the courts to decide if the use of force went too far.
“This was really was a breach of trust for him. It was troubling for him that he was not refusing to do anything,” Noel said.
In the police report, Sloat reported that he warned Newbern several times that he would knee him if Newbern didn’t get into the squad.
Robbinsdale Police Chief Steve Smith says they can’t comment, and they haven’t been served with the lawsuit yet.
Smith says Sloat is a veteran officer with a good-standing record.
In October, Newbern entered an Alford plea for disorderly conduct, which is a petty misdemeanor. It means he maintains his innocence while admitting the prosecution has some evidence.
Noel says Sloat will likely be served with the lawsuit next week.