'Get off his neck!' Controversial arrest caught on camera as MPD clashed with protesters

MILWAUKEE -- FOX6 News is asking questions about a controversial arrest. Video shows an officer restraining a protester as they clashed near 6th Street and Vliet Street Tuesday, June 2. That video has been passed on to experts. It shows a knee on the back of a protester's head -- and at least one city leader has said she was upset by what she saw.

"Get off his neck! Get off his neck!" the crowd shouted just outside Fiserv Forum Tuesday evening as a confrontation between police and protesters escalated.

Video shows a man lying on the ground as an officer restrains him.

"Stop that! Stop that!" the crowd shouted as the officer's knee held the man down, and kicked him in his side.

Video shows MPD officer's knee on neck of protester near 6th and Vliet

The arrest drew ire from demonstrators, and a day later, Alderwoman Milele Coggs didn't hold back.

"It's frustrating as hell," said Alderwoman Coggs.

The 6th District alderwoman said she's upset with the way the officer responded.

"With videos like that, my expectation is that it will be fully investigated," said Alderwoman Coggs.

FOX6 reached out to law enforcement expert George Klein to get his take.

"This situation is not clear," said Klein. "It's problematic."

Klein is a professor emeritus at Oakton Community College and works as an expert witness. He said by his observation, the officer's knee was on the man's neck momentarily -- but for about 20 seconds, it pushed the man's head.

"The knee on the head is problematic because you could break the neck," said Klein. "You could cut the blood flow. You could cause brain damage."

He said the officer's actions don't compare to those of officers in Minneapolis in the case of George Floyd.

"This was a struggle," said Klein.

In the end, the protester stood up in handcuffs, as the clash between the two groups continued.

FOX6 News reached out to Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett -- who issued this statement Wednesday:

“I support the rights of protesters to voice their concerns.  I also want and expect peace in our community. I’ve seen the reports of interactions between law enforcement and protesters and I want these to be reviewed immediately. It’s important to promptly examine the body camera footage and see what precipitated these actions.  The videos raise questions and we must have all the information. My focus will continue to be on creating an environment where peaceful protesters can express their rights safely and maintain order and safety for all our residents including our first responders.”

The Milwaukee Police Department issued the following statement:

"The Milwaukee Police Department is aware of a video that has been circulating on social media.  The video captured the arrest of a subject that occurred on Tuesday, June 2, 2020, at approximately 7:20 p.m., on the 600 block of West McKinley Avenue.

MPD officers were at the location to monitor what was a peaceful protest. While on scene, several protestors attempted to surround and block squad cars that were monitoring the demonstration.

As an officer attempted to take the main suspect into custody, the suspect pulled away, causing the officer, the suspect and the suspect’s bicycle to fall to the ground. A brief struggle ensued and a secondary officer assisted in the arrest.

During the course of this incident, force was used to gain compliance.

The encounter on the ground lasted approximately two minutes and after the suspect was handcuffed he was immediately brought to his feet. The suspect was later identified as a 28 year old Milwaukee man, who was cited for disorderly conduct and later released.

The force utilized by the members in this incident is under review."

A Milwaukee Police Department spokeswoman issued this statement:

"The individual was arrested for disorderly conduct after he and several other bicyclist attempt to surround police officers. Once on the ground, he held on to a bicycle and refused to let it go. Officers attempted to place the individual under arrest; however, he refused to comply.  MPD is looking into this incident.  Additional information will be provided regarding this incident."

She added the individual who was arrested refused to put his hands behind his back, and that's why force was used -- indicating the protester was not kicked, but was struck with the officer's knee. She explained that officers are trained to place a knee on the shoulder blade of a suspect, however, when individuals are actively moving, that could change.

She noted the officer did not purposely try to put his knee on the individual's neck.