OAKLAND, Calif. (AP/KTVU) - An attorney for a deputy involved in an altercation with the president of the Toronto Raptors as he tried to join his team on the court to celebrate their NBA championship said his client suffered a concussion and is on medical leave.
Attorney David Mastagni said Tuesday the 20-year-veteran of the Alameda County Sheriff's Office has a jaw injury and is considering filing a lawsuit.
Sheriff's Sgt. Ray Kelly says the deputy was checking court-access credentials after the game Thursday in Oakland against the Golden State Warriors when Raptors President Masai Ujiri shoved the deputy and Ujiri's arm struck him in the side of the head.
Kelly says investigators are questioning witnesses and the office hopes to file a report to prosecutors recommending a misdemeanor battery charge against Ujiri. He also said that Sheriff Greg Ahern watched the deputy's body camera video of the event and supports the officer. The sheriff's department will not release the video.
As of Tuesday, law enforcement had not forwarded the case to the District Attorney, spokeswoman Teresa Drenick told KTVU. Oakland police are investigating the case.
But according to witness Gregory Wiener, the CEO of QuickBolt in Livermore, Ujiri shoved the deputy but he never saw the executive strike the officer in the face.
In a phone interview, Wiener said that he was standing about a foot away from the deputy near the end of the game. He and his 28-year-old son were trying to leave because "I didn't need to see the Raptors celebrate."
The deputy was "aggressively making sure that we could go no further," Wiener said. As he was standing there, the game finally ended and Ujiri ended up near him and his son. Wiener said he believes that Ujiri was "cupping his credentials" in his hand, and did not have them around his neck, as is policy. Wiener didn't know it was Ujiri at the time; only that it was a well-dressed man in a suit. "He looked important," Wiener said.
As Wiener saw it, Ujiri tried to get on the court, and the deputy put his arm out towards Ujiri's chest. "It looked like Mr. Ujiri swatted his arm away and stepped forward," Wiener said.
The deputy then shouted in general to the crowd: "Nobody gets on the court without credentials!"
At some point during this chaos, Ujiri then "took his two hands and shoved the deputy hard," Wiener recounted. "It was shocking. You just don't expect that. You don't touch police."
The deputy stumbled back three or four steps, Wiener said. "I thought the deputy was about to go off," he added.
Wiener emphatically said that despite the shove, he did not see Ujiri strike the deputy in the face or the jaw.
Wiener said his son then quickly approached Ujiri to console him and try to diffuse the situation. Other people also quickly stepped in to keep the deputy and Ujiri away from each other.
A few minutes later, after the two parties separated, Wiener asked the deputy, "Can we go now?" and the deputy answered "yes."
Wiener said he called Kelly of the sheriff's department to tell him what he witnessed and was told someone from Oakland police would take his official statement. As of Wednesday morning, no one from the department had called him.
The Raptors said last week it was cooperating with the investigation and gathering information on its own and had no further comment on Tuesday.
The NBA also has not issued any fines or disciplinary measures following the alleged shoving match.
"Our review is ongoing. We are waiting on additional information to be shared by the police and DA's office," said NBA spokesman Mike Bass.
The name of the deputy has not been released.
The question also arises: Can officers sue civilians for on-the-job injuries? According to attorney Ephrat Livini, the answer depends.
In a blog post, Livini wrote: "Every state has a version of the fireman's rule, which generally bars police officers and firefighters from suing people whose recklessness or negligence caused the hazard they are responding to. If the rules didn't exist, an emergency responder would have a basis for a lawsuit almost every time they did their job.
But just because some types of jobs assume a certain amount of risk does not mean that police or firefighters can never sue a civilian. In California, for example, the rule only bars actions for injuries caused by the misconduct that prompted the officer's presence at the scene. An injury that occurs independently of the misconduct to which the officer responds is outside the scope of the rule and the officer can sue civilly."
KTVU's Lisa Fernandez and Kellee Roman contributed to this report. EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was updated on June 19, 2019 to reflect Wiener's statements.