Vikings defensive tackle Tom Johnson has filed a $75,000 lawsuit against two Minneapolis police officers in connection with an October 2014 incident in which he was pepper-sprayed and tasered outside a popular downtown hangout.
In a lawsuit filed Monday in federal court, the 31-year-old Johnson accused the two officers, Patrick McCarver and John Laluzerne, of a variety of civil rights violations, including excessive force, false arrest and unreasonable seizure.
Johnson claimed that the incident left him “injured, jailed, publicly humiliated and ultimately forced to defend himself from criminal charges” after the officers painted him as the aggressor in police reports.
Johnson was acquitted last June of all charges stemming from the confrontation. The charges alleged that the officers used pepper spray and Tasers against the 6-foot-3, 285-pound defensive tackle after he ignored repeated commands by police and staff to leave the restaurant after closing hours. He had been charged with misdemeanor charges of trespassing, disorderly conduct and interfering with a police officer.
According to Johnson, however, the two officers instigated the confrontation.
Johnson alleges that staff at Seven — a restaurant and nightclub at 700 Hennepin Av. often frequented by professional athletes — had singled out Johnson merely because he was wearing Timberland boots in violation of Seven’s dress code policy. As he was walking out, the officers, who were working off-duty security while in uniform, yelled at him to leave and they pepper-sprayed him, Johnson said.
Once outside, Johnson said he tried to record the scene on his iPhone, but that McCarver “swatted” the phone out of his hands and then used a Taser on him before arresting him.
Johnson contends in the suit, which names the city of Minneapolis as a co-defendant, that the officers’ “improper seizure and use of unreasonable force … was enabled and directly caused by the custom or practice of the City of Minneapolis of deliberate indifference to the use of such unreasonable force and false arrests.” He also accused the officers of violating several department policies.
Instead of facing punishment for their conduct, Johnson alleges, the officers were each awarded a department award of merit in February 2015, and Laluzerne was promoted to sergeant within six months of the incident.
Laluzerne is now working in the First Precinct, while McCarver is assigned to the juvenile investigations division, according to Scott Seroka, a department spokesman. He declined to comment further.
Johnson’s suit was filed on the same day that jury selection began in the trial of another Minneapolis officer, Michael Griffin — who was indicted last year on charges of assaulting four men in separate incidents while off-duty — began in federal court in St. Paul.
Officers previously sued
Johnson played all 16 games in 2015, a starter in half of them, and recorded 5½ sacks and a career-high 36 tackles. The Vikings re-signed him last spring to a three-year, $7 million contract.
Johnson, who was going to be a free agent at the end of the 2014 season, contends that other teams were wary of signing him because of the looming charges against him and that as a result he was placed in the NFL’s intervention program.
Laluzerne and McCarver were previously sued over allegations of false arrest and unreasonable force stemming from a 2006 drug arrest. The city settled the case in 2011 for $45,000.
Lawyers for Johnson say that McCarver was named in an earlier lawsuit by a man who claimed he was falsely arrested and pepper-sprayed by the officer. The man received a $90,000 settlement from the city, Johnson’s attorneys said.
Lt. Bob Kroll, head of the police union, said Monday that the officers were justified in their response. Johnson, he said, was seeking “special treatment because he’s a Viking.” City Attorney Susan Segal said through a spokesman that her office had just received a copy of the suit and they were reviewing it.