A Milwaukee man says David Clarke, Milwaukee’s tough-talking, cowboy-hat wearing sheriff, detained him after a flight because the man shook his head at the lawman, who’s gained a national prominence for his outspoken support of Donald Trump.
Dan Black said in a complaint submitted through the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office website that his gesture of disapproval was about football, not politics. Black said he was disappointed that Sheriff David Clarke was wearing Dallas Cowboys gear the same day that team was playing the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round of the playoffs.
But Clarke didn’t view the interaction as harmless. He said in a Facebook post Wednesday that he “reserves the reasonable right to pre-empt a possible assault.”
The encounter happened during boarding for a flight from Dallas to Milwaukee hours before kickoff. The Packers went on to beat the Cowboys 34-31.
Black, 24, said in the complaint that Clarke wasn’t wearing his trademark cowboy hat and Black asked him whether he was Milwaukee’s sheriff. When Clarke answered “yes,” Black shook his head and started walking toward his seat, he said, when Clarke asked him if he had a problem. Black shook his head to say “no.”
Black said deputies questioned him for about 15 minutes after the plane landed before letting him go.
The status of Black’s complaint was not immediately known.
Clarke, whose bizarre antics have made him something of a national joke, had his profile elevated even higher recently when he was mentioned as a possible candidate for a job in Trump’s administration. He was one of the few African-Americans to speak at the Republican convention and has called anti-Trump protesters “anarchists” who “must be quelled.”
In his Facebook response to Black’s complaint, Clarke warned: “Next time he or anyone else pulls this stunt on a plane they may get knocked out.” He added he “does not have to wait for some goof to assault him.”
Black, who said he was shaken by the experience, called Clarke “unhinged.”
“Who in their right mind responds, ‘I’m going to kick that guy’s ass next time?’” Black said.
In a prepared statement, Black’s attorney William F. Sulton, said that Clarke’s threats have broad implications. “Citizens should be able to complain about public officials without fear of retaliation,” Sulton said. “Sheriff Clarke’s statements are coldly calculated to intimidate Mr. Black with physical violence for engaging in Constitutionally protected activity. Law enforcement simply do not have license to beat up citizens for whatever perceived slight. Mr. Black will preemptively stop Sheriff Clarke’s attacks with the full force of the legal system. In addition to protecting Mr. Black’s rights, we will work to ensure that Mr. Black is safe from the dangers caused by Sheriff Clarke’s promotion of violence.
[UPDATED to include response from Black’s attorney, William Sutton.]