Brookings man says police conduct during arrest went too far

Business owner alleges previous run-in with police led to harassment
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Published: Jul. 29, 2021 at 8:04 PM CDT
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BROOKINGS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Is it a case of proper policing or officers going too far? A Brookings business owner says a run-in with an officer led to intimidation and harassment a little more than a week later. There is a written record of what happened. The problem here: the written record doesn’t always match what police body cam video shows.

To fully understand what happened in the early morning hours of March have to go back about a week and a half. Shannon Brown was on a late-night drive to the bank to deposit some earnings from his business; the Pizza King restaurant in downtown Brookings. The problems started when he left the bank.

“I saw a car come flying up behind me..didn’t think nothing of it...looked in my rearview mirror and it was a police officer,” said Brown.

Brown says what followed was 20 minutes of the officer following him...but never attempting to pull him over. Brown stopped his car and got out.

“And I held my hands up like ‘what do you want?’ And he just sat there.” said Brown.

Brown got back in, started driving and the officer continued following him. Again...never attempting to pull him over. Brown eventually pulled up next to the officer and asked him why he was following him.

“As I was leaving the officer, Keshaun Britt, told me he could do whatever he wants,” said Brown.

Now flash forward a week and a the early morning hours of March 4th.

“You will get tased. I’m on a traffic stop.” said Officer Keshaun Britt on cell phone video.

This is video Shannon Brown shot on his cell phone. The officer holding the taser; Keshaun Britt. The same officer Brown encountered a week and a half earlier.

“I saw him follow me,” said Brown.

The March 4th encounter with Officer Britt started the same way as the previous one. Brown was on a late-night drive and was unnerved he was being followed again by a Brookings police officer. He went to his parents’ home, parked his car, and went onto the property. Brown says Officer Britt exited his car and told Brown they needed to talk. Brown replied he had nothing to say. Brown says Officer Britt spent the next five minutes shining a flashlight into Brown’s parents’ home before leaving. At least, that’s what Brown thought.

“And he’s hiding in the in the neighbor’s alley with his lights off and starts following me again,” said Brown.

Again, Brown says Officer Britt never turned on his lights or attempted to pull him over. But did continue to follow him. Brown headed downtown and says when he turned into the parking lot of his business...intending to go inside... the red and blue lights came on and Officer Britt and another officer, Nicholas Oines, approached him.

Now let’s pause here for a moment before continuing.

“A police officer’s job is to investigate suspicious activity,” said Chief Erickson.

Brookings Police Chief Dave Erickson says he is aware of both the March 4th incident and the first run in between Brown and Britt a week and a half earlier.

Erickson tells me officers only follow motorists in Brookings if the officer has a reasonable suspicion something is afoot.

So in the case of the first encounter, I asked Erickson what was the reasonable suspicion that prompted Britt to follow Brown for 20 minutes without pulling him over.

“I don’t want to get into all the particulars of the things that may have happened on that day,” said Chief Erickson.

When Brown stopped his car during that first encounter and asked Britt why he was being followed...Britt didn’t respond. I asked Erickson....should Britt have explained himself?

“I would recommend conversations be had,” said Chief Erickson.

Now back to March 4th. Officers Britt and Oines have stopped Shannon Brown just outside the back door of his Pizza King restaurant. Britt’s written report says he tried to engage Brown in conversation twice before pulling out his taser. I told Chief Erickson....that’s not what the police bodycam footage shows. Erickson implied I was wrong.

“I think you should probably watch the video again,” said Chief Erickson.

So we did watch the video again. This is body cam footage from Officer Oines, Keshaun Britt’s partner. You can see as Britt exits the police cruiser and heads toward Brown....he has a lighted yellow-colored object with a hilt in his hand. And this angle from Shannon Brown’s cell phone video.....when Britt got to Brown....his taser was already out and aimed. It was then Erickson acknowledged the written report and what the video shows...don’t match.

“Yeah that is a discrepancy,” said Chief Erickson.

Erickson told me unholstering a taser isn’t considered use of force until it’s pointed at someone. Both Officers Britt and Oines had their tasers pointed at Shannon Brown as soon as they got to him.

“Something in that situation gave Officer Britt suspicion or feel the need to draw his taser,” said Chief Erickson.

But Erickson did not elaborate on what that suspicion was. When Britt and Oines reached Brown, he was not combative. Bodycam video shows he was standing stationary shooting cell phone video and never lunged at either officer. In the written report, Britt says the reason he had his taser out....was that he believed Brown was going to enter his business.

And the traffic stop that prompted Britt to take action and want to make an arrest? He said Brown was clocked going 29 in a 25 mile per hour zone.

Again remember, this is a traffic stop. and when you watch the bodycam brings an interesting point to mind....something I asked Chief Erickson about. Neither officer said to Brown upon the first encounter...this is a traffic stop...we need you to get back in your car...we need to see your license and registration.

This was not a high-speed chase. In the written report, there is no record of Britt alleging brown was bobbing and weaving or ignoring traffic signals. The written report says Britt started following Brown at 2:06 in the morning. But according to the time stamp on the police bodycam footage....officers pulled Brown over at 2:18....12 minutes later. Why was Brown followed for nearly 15 minutes with no action being taken? It’s this part of the story that Shannon Brown says feels like harassment...given his first and now second encounter with Officer Britt.

“When I found out it was the same officer I felt like he was profiling..was proving a point that he could do whatever he wants,” said Brown.

Also a key point on this second encounter: in Britt’s written report; the reason he gives for following Shannon Brown on March 4th? He thought he was driving too slow.

“There’s no intention by officers of harm or of trying to make people nervous or whatnot,” said Chief Erickson.

But we pointed out to Chief Erickson that Shannon Brown says he was followed and made to feel nervous two times in a little more than a week involving the same police officer.

“We will wait it out, man. if you step inside Pizza King, you’re getting tased. I’m letting you know.” said Officer Keshaun Britt to Shannon Brown on video.

Two officers..tasers drawn....for going four miles over the speed limit...and no attempt to deescalate the situation. Shannon Brown exited his car but didn’t attempt to run away from officers when they approached. Shannon Brown says for a speeding ticket....this response was too much.

“I think they escalated the whole situation where they could have know..if they thought I was drinking they could have just come up and said hey, they can ask me, have you been drinking? I’d tell you no.” said Brown.

Brown filed a complaint with the Brookings Police Department alleging officer harassment. Chief Erickson says their in-house investigation showed officers in this incident did nothing wrong.

“I am fine with the results of our investigation and the actions that were taken,” said Chief Erickson.

But in this same interview, Erickson also told me this.

“In this situation, there was the way that it was handled.... there are other ways that it could have been handled, yes, and those internal conversations have been had,” said Chief Erickson.

There is an addendum to this story: Brown would be charged with obstructing justice and the four-mile an hour speeding violation. But that obstructing charge....the charge of which there is video evidence....was dropped by the Brookings County States Attorney as part of a plea deal. Brown says he paid a $97 fine for the speeding charge. Brown tells me he is considering further action against the Brookings Police Department. The department, as you heard, says they stand by the actions of their officers.

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