Diamond Reynolds, who livestreamed the aftermath of her boyfriend Philando Castile’s fatal officer-involved shooting in 2016, is suing the mayor of Elysian, Minn., for his 2017 tweet saying she would spend her settlement money on “crack cocaine.”
The suit against Tom McBroom alleges that his tweet was defamatory, false and racially motivated. Reynolds is black.
“The Defendant was alleging that Plaintiff is an abuser of serious drugs, has an addiction that causes her financial stress, and is someone who bases her entire existence in terms of her costs of daily living on support from municipalities and other state of Minnesota entities,” the suit said.
McBroom could not be reached for comment Friday. He was a Rice County sheriff’s sergeant at the time of the tweet but was demoted by Sheriff Troy Dunn to deputy in February 2018 for “misconduct” that included the tweet, according to court documents.
“His comments were not the beliefs of our agency, and we’re trying to move forward in a positive manner,” Dunn said. “I hope that [the public] just trusts that we’re in this to do the right thing and that we’re trying to provide great training and great people to do a job here.”
McBroom has been with the Sheriff’s Office for 14 years, Dunn said, and is now assigned to courthouse security. He is serving concurrently as mayor.
Reynolds was in the passenger seat and her 4-year-old daughter was in the back seat when Castile, who was driving, was fatally shot in 2016 by then-St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez during a traffic stop. Yanez was tried and acquitted in June 2017 of manslaughter in Castile’s death.
Reynolds received an $800,000 settlement in November 2017 from the city of St. Anthony, the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust and the city of Roseville in connection with the shooting.
McBroom tweeted a few days after news of the settlement was made public.
“She needs to come off County and State Aid now that she has some cash,” McBroom tweeted in 2017. “It’ll be gone in 6 months on crack cocaine.”
McBroom’s tweet caused Reynolds to suffer pain, emotional distress and damage to her reputation, according to the suit.
“The conduct of the Defendant delineated herein was intentional and constitutes intentional inflection of emotional distress …,” the suit said, adding that Reynolds has never abused cocaine.
The suit is seeking more than $50,000 in damages, a common placeholder amount in civil suits, in addition to attorney’s fees.
The Elysian city website lists McBroom as mayor. He was a City Council member when he sent the tweet. A call to the city and an e-mail sent to McBroom’s mayoral e-mail account were not returned.
McBroom’s tweet drew criticism on social media, with one tweeter saying in 2017: “Lot of false assumptions on your part.”
Another response questioned why McBroom would draw such a conclusion. “I’m guessing stereotypes. #uneducated.”
“History,” McBroom tweeted in reply.
In an interview with City Pages in 2017, McBroom said people misunderstood his comments and said he was referring to the temptation to spend rather than save large settlements.
“I’ve seen them come to court. They’ve lost their children, but they come to court dressed to the nines with Michael Kors purses,” McBroom told City Pages. “To be frank with you … I see it time and time again and I just shake my head and say why wasn’t there anyone to help that person?”
McBroom told City Pages that his comment had nothing to do with Reynolds’ race.