Former Gopher hoops star sues officer, claims excessive force


A former Gopher basketball star is claiming excessive force in a lawsuit against a Robbinsdale police officer, the Star Tribune reports.

In the suit filed Wednesday in Hennepin County District Court, Melvin Newbern claims Officer Brian Sloat knocked him to the ground while he was in handcuffs following a February 2013 arrest in Robbinsdale. Newbern claims he was kneed in the back of the leg during the arrest and fell down and hit his head, and was later diagnosed with a concussion.

Newbern, 46, of Robbinsdale, is seeking more than $300,000 in damages in the case.

According to the lawsuit filed Wednesday in Hennepin County District Court, Newbern was driving away from a doctor's appointment when he was stopped by Sloat for allegedly swerving and possible intoxication. The suit claims Sloat kneed a handcuffed Newbern in the back of the leg after the 6-foot-5, 330-pound former Gopher refused to get into the squad car.

The Star Tribune says a squad car video recorded Newbern saying “I’ll get on the ground” and “I’ll do whatever you want me to do,” a minute before the force is claimed to have occurred.

Newbern entered an Alford plea to a petty misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge following the arrest, which allows a defendant to maintain their innocence. The paper reached out to Newbern and the chief of the Robbinsdale Police Department about the lawsuit, but neither had any comment.

Newern, who played on the Gophers team that got within one game of the Final Four in 1990, was signed as a free agent by the New Jersey Nets in October 1992 and waived a month later, the blog Basketball Reference says. Newbern went on to play part of the season with the Detroit Pistons in 1993.

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