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Family of man killed by police files federal complaint against officers

Jermaine Claybrooks killed by police in March
Posted at 5:18 PM, Nov 02, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-02 20:00:03-04

The family of a man shot and killed by police has filed a federal complaint against the officers and against Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn, claiming the shooting violated civil rights. 

Jermaine Claybrooks, 32, was killed in March by members of a drug task force

The family says there are too many questions right now about what happened, especially because the three Milwaukee Police officers involved in the incident chose to plead the fifth amendment and did not provide statements to investigators. 

The three other officers involved, two from West Allis and one agent with the Drug Enforcement Agency have already been cleared of possible charges by the Milwaukee County District Attorney. 

Claybrooks' mother Joan McCants says they've struggled as a family since his death, especially trying to explain what happened to Claybrooks' two young children. 

"If they would have pulled him over, he would have surrendered and had his day in court but they didn't give him that chance," said McCants. "They just loaded him with bullets."

According to reports by an independent team of investigators, undercover officers with Milwaukee, West Allis and the DEA set out to arrest Claybrooks when he showed up to sell heroin to a police informant. 

The officers involved in the shooting were not wearing body cameras because they were undercover, so there's no video of the actual shooting. 

Officers planned to block in Claybrooks' vehicle using one car in the front and one in the back but investigators say Claybrooks saw the unmarked cars and fled, eventually hitting a tree. Investigators say the force of the accident wasn't enough to deploy the airbags. 

Officers approached the car wearing ballistic vests that said "police" according to investigators. Witnesses also reportedly told investigators they saw the police vests and heard police give commands to Claybrooks to get out of the vehicle. 

Officers then tried to break out the tinted windows of the vehicle and through one of the holes made, the DEA agent reportedly saw Claybrooks pointing a weapon at an officer. That's when the agent fired 5 to 6 shots at Claybrooks. 

The two officers with West Allis also told investigators they fired multiple rounds from their weapons when they heard someone say Claybrooks had a gun. 

The family's attorney Walter Stern says because of the tinted windows, and because there was heavy smoke in the car after the accident, they are disputing the fact that the agent saw Claybrooks pointing a gun. 

"To me it would be very hard in the context of the case to see a gun," said Stern. 

Stern says the main issue in this case is that the officers violated Claybrooks' civil rights by attempting the arrest in the first place based only off the information of an uncredible informant. 

"On that unconstitutional basis they start this high speed, high intensity action and all of this leads to the death of a human being," said Stern. 

Investigators say heroin, cash and other drugs were found in the car. Claybrooks also had a loaded gun in his hand, with his finger on the trigger. 

With the federal complaint filed, the family is hoping for monetary compensation. They also want the court to take action so something like this doesn't happen again. 

The district attorney says the three Milwaukee officers have not yet been cleared in the case. MPD did not have a response to the complaint saying the department doesn't comment on pending litigation.