Deputy in clash with Raptors president Masai Ujiri considering lawsuit, says lawyer

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A lawyer for a sheriff’s 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.

“The officer is off work, disabled and wants to go back to work,” Mastagni said. The name of the deputy has not been released.

Sheriff’s Sgt. Ray Kelly alleges the deputy was checking court-access credentials after the game last Thursday in Oakland, Calif., 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.

The team said last week it was co-operating with the investigation and gathering information on its own. It had no further comment Tuesday.

Name of deputy not released

The name of the deputy has not been released.

Moments after the Raptors won their first NBA championship last Thursday night, Ujiri allegedly assaulted the deputy, according to the sheriff’s office.

A spokesperson for the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office said Ujiri was making his way to the court when he was stopped by a sheriff’s deputy and asked for his credentials.

“This deputy had no idea who [Ujiri] was,” Kelly said in a phone interview.

Ujiri didn’t have the credentials on him, Kelly said, adding that the former NBA executive of the year then allegedly pushed the deputy out of the way in an effort to get on the court.

“Our deputy pushed the man back and told him he couldn’t go onto the court,” Kelly alleged. “At that point, the gentleman pushed our deputy again, and during that push his arm struck our deputy in the jaw.”

He said at that point, NBA security intervened and Ujiri was able to get onto the court. A local television station, NBC Bay Area, shared video from the immediate aftermath of the alleged incident that appears to show another man separating the deputy from Ujiri, who is then led onto the court by Raptors guard Kyle Lowry.

Kelly said that rather than arrest Ujiri on international television, the department decided to take the “high road” and file a misdemeanour complaint to local prosecutors. He said the officer was not seriously injured in the alleged incident, but did complain of pain in his jaw.

“We’ll be submitting a report to the Alameda County district attorney for complaint of battery on an officer,” he said.

Asked about the appearance of a well-known executive being held back from celebrating a historic win with the team he built, Kelly said optics were of no concern.

“There is a credentialling policy that the NBA has in place. Everybody from the top executives all the way down … know that you must wear credentials to get on the court,” he said. “We would expect more from a team president.”

Kelly told CBC News they get a “tremendous amount” of celebrities and VIPs who go to Warriors games and it would “almost impossible” to know every team executive.

A spokesperson for the Raptors said: “The incident is being looked at, and we are co-operating with authorities. We look forward to resolving the situation.”

Warriors’ fan says deputy asked for credentials

Warriors fan Greg Wiener, who witnessed the altercation, said last week the incident began when the deputy put his hand on Ujiri’s chest and pushed him. Ujiri shoved him back before bystanders intervened, Wiener said.

He also said then that there was no conversation between the deputy and Ujiri. But on Tuesday, he said he remembered the officer shouting, “No one gets on the court without credentials.”

Wiener said he recalled the detail “after thinking about it all weekend.”

 

Kelly said deputies took witness statements and were reviewing footage from body cameras worn by the deputy along with footage from the arena surveillance system and cellphones.

“We had the opportunity to make an arrest and we chose not to,” Kelly said. “We decided it would be in everyone’s best interest to slow things down and do an investigation.”

The Raptors said the team is also looking into the altercation and co-operating with authorities.

“We look forward to resolving the situation,” the team said.





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