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Former MPD officer found not guilty in shooting Sylville Smith

28 June, 2017, 17:30 | Author: Mae Harvey
  • Deliberations in Milwaukee police shooting enter second day

Former Milwaukee Police Officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown was found not guilty Wednesday in the on-duty fatal shooting of Sylville Smith that set off two days of violent unrest a year ago in parts of the Sherman Park neighborhood.

Heaggan-Brown was acquitted Wednesday of first-degree reckless homicide in the August 13, 2016, killing of Smith, which ignited several days of protests in Milwaukee.

"Stop reaching", Heaggan-Brown could be heard yelling at Smith in the body camera video, which had the audio kick on 30 seconds after the shooting.

The trial hinged on whether Dominique Heaggan-Brown acted in self-defense when he killed Sylville Smith or if the former officer is guilty of first-degree reckless homicide or two lesser charges. The second one ultimately killed Smith. Now, after today's verdict was read, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett announced that the city is going to provide a strong police presence later today in Sherman Park.

Similar rulings were issued by grand juries in the deaths of Eric Garner on Staten Island, Tamir Rice in Cleveland and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, all of them controversial cases that prompted a national debate about race relations and the use of force by law enforcement.

Sylville Smith's sister Sherelle Smith made a plea for peace outside the Milwaukee County Courthouse on Wednesday.

PATRICK SMITH: Why are they supposedly trying to kill us when they're supposed to be trained to protect and serve us.

In closing arguments during Wednesday's trial, District Attorney Jonathan Chisholm argued that Heaggan-Brown "knew at the time he fired that second shot, when that bullet went ripping through Sylville Smith's chest, ripping into his heart, ripping into his lung and ending up in his lower back, he knew at that point in time that there was no imminent threat".

Data shows 82 officers nationwide have been charged with murder or manslaughter for on-duty fatal shootings since 2005, said Philip Stinson, a criminologist at Ohio's Bowling Green State University. Heaggan-Brown told investigators he feared Smith was reaching for a second gun.

The shots, 1.7 seconds apart, ended the brief foot chase that lasted 12 seconds.

The suit claims that the city kept the former officer at work despite a "pervasive pattern of excessive force and misconduct". The officer moved his hand away from Smith's waist, according to court documents.

The Milwaukee Police Department fired Heaggan-Brown from the force two months following the shooting, after he was charged with sexual assault, in an unrelated case.

The first shot fired by Heaggan-Brown was justified, Chisholm said, because Smith was holding the gun. "He knew that Sylville Smith was attempting to surrender", Chisholm said. Heaggan-Brown was wearing a body cam.

In 2012, his apartment was allegedly searched upon a shots fired call and although he was not there, police made three arrests and reported that the apartment smelled strongly of marijuana.


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