St. Paul sculptor Frank J. Brown’s artwork hangs in museums, art galleries, private collections and public squares across the country. But his career was derailed after he says he was injured during a 2014 arrest in St. Paul.
Now, St. Paul and Ramsey County have agreed to settle Brown’s lawsuit for a combined $47,500. And Brown said that after being unable to sculpt for nearly two and a half years, he’s back at work again, though he doesn’t have the same strength in his hands.
Brown, 62, a longtime Lowertown resident, said police officers disregarded him when he showed them the handicapped placard on his vehicle’s rear-view mirror and he told them about his disabilities.
“They didn’t care,” Brown said Thursday, adding that he hopes officers get more training on interacting with people who are disabled. “You can’t just mistreat me like they did.”
Brown’s federal lawsuit said he was born with a condition that “severely limits” his ability to extend his arms at the elbow “into a straightened position,” but officers forced Brown into a behind-the-back handcuffing position.
When he was brought to the Ramsey County jail, sheriff’s workers carried Brown by his arms and he was then pinned down for a search, his lawsuit said.
Brown was left “moaning in pain,” according to the suit. Brown said he needed surgery on both of his arms after the arrest.
St. Paul and Ramsey County denied liability, according to settlement agreements. The St. Paul City Council on Wednesday approved a $20,000 settlement with Brown and the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners signed off on a similar agreement for $27,500 on Sept. 25.
“Mr. Brown and his attorneys presented the city with a claim that alleged statutory and constitutional violations, which the city takes very seriously,” said St. Paul City Attorney Lyndsey Olson. “Resolving this case prior to trial allows the city to focus its efforts on enhancing services to the residents of St. Paul and allows Mr. Brown to put this incident behind him.”
A St. Paul officer pulled Brown over in March 2014 after seeing his vehicle had no front license plate, and observing him swerve and nearly strike a parked car, according to a criminal complaint filed against him. Brown was charged with third-degree DWI test refusal, but that count was dismissed and he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor public-nuisance offense.
Brown’s attorneys, Jeff Storms and Andrew Irlbeck, wrote in a lawsuit that he reported his disabilities to Officer Kou Yang and “desperately pleaded” that Yang and Officer Thomas Tanghe not make him sit in the squad while his hands were cuffed behind his back because that “forcibly” extended his “congenitally deformed arms.”
The city’s attorney wrote in a court filing that Brown stated he had a medical condition regarding his arms and knees, but didn’t specify what it was. The city also denied Brown’s attorneys’ description of him being “frail and visibly disabled.”
At the jail, Brown “resisted, refused to walk and his feet dragged,” leading workers to carry him, according to the county’s response to the lawsuit.
But Brown — who also has problems with his legs that make walking difficult — said he requested a wheelchair to get inside the jail. Instead, sheriff’s employees “dragged him by extending his arms up and behind his back,” which led him to shriek in pain and shout that he was disabled and couldn’t be carried by his arms, according to his lawsuit.