New claim compares Toronto Raptors scuffle to murder

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OAKLAND — A new motion in the legal battle between an Alameda County sheriff’s deputy and the Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri at the 2019 NBA Finals, now compares the potential threat of Ujiri entering the court to mass murder or terrorism.

The two men were involved in a scuffle shortly after the deciding game of the basketball finals at Oracle Arena on June 13, 2019. Ujiri, Raptors president of basketball operations, tried to make his way onto the court to celebrate, before encountering Alameda County Sheriff’s Deputy Alan Strickland, who was working security at the arena.

Ujiri claims he had valid credentials to enter the court to celebrate with his team, while Strickland claims he did not. A scuffle ensued, and the deputy is accused of shoving Ujiri, and Ujiri shoving back.

But a new motion filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court of Northern California by Strickland’s attorney’s alleges that Ujiri was actively resisting multiple efforts from Strickland and a security guard to see if he had the right credentials to go onto the court.

If Strickland had “not employed force, he would have risked having the suspect not only trespass onto the court … and potentially committing any number of possibly serious crimes,” the motion stated.

The court document says that since this was a high-profile sports event, those “serious crimes” could have ranged from vandalism to assaults on players — giving the example of the 1993 stabbing of tennis legend Monica Seles while she was sitting on a bench at a match; assaults on coaches; player-fan brawls; or “even mass murder or terrorism (e.g., the mass murder of Israeli athletes by terrorists at the Munich Olympics).”

The threat existed when Ujiri barged past Strickland, without showing his credential, even after being shoved and ordered to back up, the court document says.

Strickland originally named Ujiri, the Toronto Raptors and Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment in a federal lawsuit in February, alleging assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and two counts of negligence, alleging that he had suffered “physical, mental, emotional and economic” injuries in the confrontation’s wake. Strickland remains on medical leave from the sheriff’s office.

Ujiri recently filed a counterclaim and released a security video through his Burlingame attorney Joe Cotchett. The video appears to show Strickland initially shoving Ujiri in the chest twice before the Raptors president shoved back. Ujiri has released statements suggesting race was a factor in the dust-up, which Strickland’s attorneys have continuously denied.

Initial accounts by the sheriff’s office said Ujiri struck Strickland in the face. A Warriors fan who witnessed the confrontation disputed that Ujiri hit the deputy. But in the motion filed by Strickland, it claims there is photo evidence, taken from a still of security footage, that shows Ujiri’s right hand connecting to Strickland’s face.

This motion to dismiss Ujiri’s counterclaim will be heard Nov. 17 in federal court.

The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office declined to file charges against Ujiri in November. Warriors’ President Rick Welts publicly apologized to Ujiri, shortly after the video was released.