WILMINGTON, N.Y. — A Ball State student who said he was racially profiled and assaulted by officers at a campus event has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the university.
In the lawsuit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court, Joshua Sperber alleges he was forced to wear a chokehold, a racial slur and “threatened with a gun” as he was handcuffed and escorted from the university’s outdoor event hall by police officers who told him they were responding to a “suspicious person” and that he was being disruptive.
The lawsuit alleges Sperger was denied his First Amendment right to free speech and accused of lying in an affidavit he provided to a federal grand jury investigating the incident.
The lawsuit also alleges that the officers lied about the nature of the incident, which they claimed they had witnessed Sperberg say to the officers.
The complaint alleges that Sperbert, now 21, said in his affidavit that the officer who was handcuffing him had been “playing his trump card” and had told him, “It’s the white man’s turn.”
The suit also alleges in the lawsuit that Saborber was subjected to racial and homophobic slurs while being arrested and subjected to a racially charged “facial contortions” by the officers during the arrest.
The university said it was aware of the lawsuit and would defend the lawsuit vigorously.
The university’s president, Michael Crow, said the university would not comment on pending litigation.
“We stand behind the University of Wisconsin, and the people who work here,” Crow said in a statement.
“We have a clear policy of not allowing our police officers to engage in racially charged behavior, and we are working diligently to implement it.”
The university’s police chief, Brian Keesling, said he could not comment because the university is reviewing the complaint.
Keesling also said he is aware of Sperbs claims, and that the university will “exercise the utmost restraint.”
The lawsuit comes a day after the university released video of the altercation.
In an interview with WITI-TV last week, Sperbers brother, Zach, described the incident as “really a scary moment” for the family.
Sperber told the station that the police officers made him “feel like he was in some sort of detention camp.”
“They told me, ‘We’re here to protect you.
We don’t care if you hurt anybody else,’ ” he said.
Saborber said he and others were not “understood” of what happened to him.
“I just felt like I was being detained,” he said, according to the station.
The suit alleges that after Sperers arrest, he was placed in a room with “two black officers and a white officer” who told the student to sit on a table while they searched his bag for items that could be confiscated.
“The white officer asked me if I was a suspect,” Sperbers suit says, “and then asked if I had a gun, which I told him was false.”
After a few minutes of questioning, Saborers suit claims, the officers asked Sperbe to step back and told him to put his hands on the ground, while another officer then asked him if he had any drugs on him.
After SperBers hands were placed on the floor, he says, he told them he was a Black Lives Matter protester and told them to search his bag.
When asked if he was sure he was the suspect, Sobber said, “Yeah, I was sure I was the guy,” the suit says.
After a short time, the suit alleges, the officer “grabbed the handcuffed [Sperbber] by his shirt collar and forcefully put his face in a bucket of cold water.”
The officer then said to Sperbin, “You’re being arrested,” the lawsuit alleges, and Sperbing was handcuffed to the officer’s back.
Saber was then taken to the police vehicle and “placed in a rear seat,” according to his suit.
He said he had to put “the lid on his bag and was told to get out of the vehicle.”
According to the suit, Sbarbers hood was taped over and he was told he was not allowed to remove his hood and could only be “in a seat” in the back of the police van.
Sbarbers suit alleges in its complaint that Sbarber’s head was pushed back against the back seat, and his face was “splayed back against his chest.”
Sbarbs face was pressed against the window of the van, the complaint says.
Sobber says that after he was taken into custody, “I was handcuffed, shackled, put in a choke hold, and asked to hold my head down and not to move.”
Sperbers lawsuit alleges that when the officer told Sbarbes head was “too high”