Newly released video footage shows a California sheriff’s deputy forcefully shoving Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri twice in the chest before Ujiri pushed him back during an altercation at last year’s NBA Finals.
On Tuesday, lawyers for Mr. Ujiri released the body-camera footage and a security video of what they said was an 11-second encounter between the two men last June. The videos are a part of a lawsuit the deputy filed earlier this year. The lawyers argued in court filings that it was the deputy, Alan Strickland, and not Mr. Ujiri who was “undeniably the aggressor” in the altercation.
The clips, posted online by California television station KTVU, show Mr. Ujiri walking toward the court at Oakland’s Oracle Arena after the buzzer ended Game Six against the Golden State Warriors, handing Toronto its first ever NBA championship.
The deputy’s body camera footage shows Mr. Ujiri pulling a badge on a lanyard out of his jacket that his lawyers wrote was an all-access pass to enter the court.
Mr. Strickland points his finger and appears to ask Mr. Ujiri to show the badge to a nearby security guard. The deputy then shoves Mr. Ujiri backward with two hands against the chest.
Mr. Ujiri’s lawyers wrote in court documents that the deputy then used profanity to tell Mr. Ujiri to back up, to which Mr. Ujiri responded: “Why did you ... push me? I’m the President of the Raptors.” The deputy forcefully shoved Mr. Ujiri again before arena security footage shows the Raptors president pushing the deputy with two hands as bystanders intervene to break up the altercation.
“Video and eyewitness evidence clearly establish that Mr. Strickland used unnecessary and excessive force during his encounter with Mr. Ujiri,” wrote lawyers from the California law firm Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, who are representing Mr. Ujiri.
“Mr. Strickland’s two forceful shoves over what should have been a simple misunderstanding, were entirely unjustified.” They wrote that Mr. Ujiri shoved the deputy back as a “defensive response [that] was a reasonable and justified reaction to Mr. Strickland’s use of unnecessary and excessive force.”
Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern, an elected official, had initially pressed for Mr. Ujiri to be charged with battery of a peace officer, a misdemeanour punishable by up to a year in jail and a US$2,000 fine, though the local district attorney’s office ultimately declined to press charges.
Mr. Strickland filed a lawsuit in February against Mr. Ujiri, The Raptors, its ownership group Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. and the National Basketball Association alleging that Mr. Ujiri hit him in the face and chest, causing permanent disabilities. The lawsuit, which is ongoing, says Mr. Strickland asked for unspecified financial damages for “mental, physical, emotional and psychological pain and suffering,” as well as “lost wages, lost opportunity for financial gain, future earning capacity, and past and future medical care and expenses.”
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