Man sues Wilmington cop for slamming head against wall, using racial slur in videotaped encounter

Patrolman Samuel Walters (right) grabs Dwayne Brown's arm moments into their encounter.  (Courtesy of Ivan Thomas/DETV)

Patrolman Samuel Walters (right) grabs Dwayne Brown's arm moments into their encounter. (Courtesy of Ivan Thomas/DETV)

A Wilmington man whose head was shoved against a plexiglass barrier by a city cop at a convenience store during an encounter captured on surveillance video is now suing the officer.

The lawsuit by 44-year-old Dwayne Brown also accused Patrolman Samuel Walters of using the “N-word” during the episode. Brown was charged with resisting arrest and other counts after the Sept. 21 incident.

Brown is Black and his lawsuit claims that Walters, who is white, has a history of “inappropriate behavior in dealing with other members of the Black community. He is widely known and feared as a bully.”

Brown says he now suffers from pain as well as “blackouts, dizziness, and faint feelings’’ since the alleged attack.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor
26CBSUIT Patrolman Samuel Walters (right) slams Dwayne Brown’s head into a plexiglass wall during the Sept. 21 encounter. (Courtesy of Ivan Thomas/DETV)

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for what Brown alleges was excessive force, assault, race discrimination, and other violations of his rights that day in 3C’s Food Market in the Southbridge neighborhood.

“Given the current national climate regarding police brutality and in light of the Eric Garner, George Floyd, and countless other cases involving members of law enforcement killing Black men, Mr. Brown was in fear for his life when he was brutally beaten and slammed against the convenience store wall,’’ Brown’s attorney, Raeann Warner, wrote in the complaint.

John Rago, spokesman for the city, said he could not comment on the lawsuit. But Rago said Walters, a 3-year veteran of the force, has been on administrative duty since the incident, and that officials hope to have an internal investigation “wrapped up as quickly as possible.”

City police spokesman David Karas added that “the video of this incident is concerning.”

He said the investigation into Walters’ actions will be thorough and afterward, police will “take any necessary action to ensure all of our members adhere to the highest standards of service to our community.”

Epithet during violent encounter indicates ‘racial animus’

The video, shown below from the Twitter page of DETV, captures about 20 seconds of the encounter that the lawsuit says continued outside on the sidewalk, where Walters “continued to use unnecessary force.”

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

The lawsuit says Brown was buying a few items when Walters, wearing his police uniform, entered the store, grabbed his right wrist, spun him around, grabbed the back of his head and “banged it twice into the Plexiglass.”

Walters used the “N-word” as he assaulted Brown, Warner said in the lawsuit, adding that “such racial statements are reflective of his state of mind and discriminatory intent in this incident.” The store surveillance video that captured the incident did not contain audio of what was said between the two men.

Warner told WHYY News on Tuesday that the “epithet” allegedly uttered by Walters is significant.

“That indicates sort of a state of mind,” Warner said. “It’s called racial animus and it means motivated by discriminatory purposes — race. And so that’s a violation of equal protection law, the Constitution.”

The lawsuit said Brown, who has no violent adult criminal record or history, never displayed any criminal intent or actions, nor did he “exhibit classic ‘flight or fight’ behavior” when Walters approached.

Brown also was not “combative, physically aggressive, actively resisting arrest, or attempting to evade arrest” while being attacked, and did not threaten Walters or others, the lawsuit said.

Karas said police had received a call that morning from a Southbridge day care center that Brown had been repeatedly harassing employees with screaming and sexual comments in the presence of children. Walters saw Brown enter the nearby convenience store and approached him, according to Karas.

After the encounter,  Brown was charged with harassment, resisting arrest, breach of release, and possession of marijuana, Karas said. He did not elaborate on the charges. Brown is free on $4,100 unsecured bail.

Get daily updates from WHYY News!

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal