Man files complaint against West Allis police, says he was falsely accused, detained over reported car theft

WEST ALLIS -- A Milwaukee man has filed a complaint against West Allis police, saying he was falsely accused and detained Sunday evening, June 14 over a reported car theft.

The city attorney tells FOX6 News that the complaint is on file regarding the incident, which happened at a West Allis tattoo parlor. The man filing the complaint, who is black, says it is exactly why people are in the streets calling for police reform.

Jesse Williams

"As much as I love teaching, I was not done learning," Jesse Williams, the man who filed the complaint, said.

Williams, 23, has spent the majority of his adult life learning -- first as an undergraduate student studying mathematics and education, then as a graduate student in bioinformatic sciences.

"You might think of a bioinformatic scientist as a statistician, biologist and computer programmer, lumped together," Williams said.

Three weeks ago, he moved from Chicago to Wisconsin to start his career as a software engineer and wanted to get a new tattoo about axioms.

"In math, axioms are statements we believe to be true, even though we can't prove them," said Williams.

Unlike an axiom, Williams says that a video he took of an interaction with West Allis police is proof that police reforms are needed.

"I did the only thing I knew I could do, which was record," said Williams.

Video from Jesse Williams of West Allis police incident

Video from Jesse Williams of West Allis police incident

Williams says the video picks up after he had already told the three officers, who are white, that a supposedly stolen vehicle parked outside the shop was not his.

"I was approached because, apparently, they received a report, according to (the officer), a man in a green hoodie was either seen exiting or near a red truck," Williams said.

West Allis Police and Municipal Court Center

West Allis police tell FOX6 that witness described a man removing items from the vehicle in question, directing officers to the location outside the tattoo parlor. Police also said that Williams matched the description provided by the witness.

Williams drives a blue sedan. Eventually, he and a co-owner of the tattoo shop were handcuffed, and the video goes black.

"I told them, you do not have consent to search me. I do not want to give you my name. He (the officer) said 'I don't need consent. This is an investigation,'" Williams said. "He reached in my pocket, took my ID, and ran my license."

The co-owner told police that the truck had been outside since the late morning. Then the two were released.

"Supposedly the owner of the vehicle changed the status of the report, mighty convenient if you ask me," said Williams. "After you finish doing exactly what you came here to do, now I can go?"

The original complainant, West Allis police said, reported the vehicle stolen out of Milwaukee after an argument with her boyfriend -- who is not Williams. Williams and the tattoo parlor's co-owner were released after officers confirmed that information and that Williams was not involved in the theft.

Williams said he is now anxious, not sleeping and nervous to even sit in a parking lot or walk past parked cars.

"Am I to be held responsible for every parked car that I walk past? If that's the case, I don't know how many stolen vehicles I would be 'responsible for' just walking past them," said Williams.

The West Allis Police Department said it is investigating Williams' complaint. It is unclear at this time if the woman who filed the stolen vehicle report will face charges for filing a false police report.

Statement from the West Allis Police Department:

While checking on the vehicle officers made contact with a citizen witness. This witness provide a description of a male party whom the witness observed near and removing items from the stolen vehicle. The officers were directed to the building where the tattoo parlor was located.

Once at the tattoo parlor officers observed Mr. Williams, who matched the description provided by the citizen witness. Officers did detain Williams as they continued their investigation into the stolen vehicle. Williams was released after officers confirmed that original complainant filed the stolen vehicle report after an argument with her boyfriend, who was not Williams, and that he was not involved in the theft of the vehicle.

The WAPD will continue to investigate the citizen’s complaint filed.