Ex-Milwaukee officer charged in fatal shooting of black man
Prosecutors charged a Milwaukee police officer Thursday with killing a black man in August, alleging the man had thrown his gun away and was unarmed when the officer fired the fatal shot. Dominique HeagganBrown, who is also black, was charged with reckless homicide in the Aug. 13 death of Sylville Smith, which sparked two days of riots on Milwaukee’s north side. In the days after the shooting, both the police chief and the mayor had said that police video clearly showed Smith had a gun and was turning toward officers when he was shot. Thursday’s criminal complaint echoed that, but went on to describe a second shot, fired into Smith’s chest after Smith no longer had his gun.
Heaggan-Brown, who was fired in October over an unrelated sexual assault case, shot Smith following a traffic stop. After fleeing police, Smith turned with a gun and was shot once in his bicep, according to the complaint. The second shot occurred less than two seconds later, after Smith was lying on the ground with his hands near his head, according to the complaint. Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm said in the complaint that the video shows Smith throwing the gun over a fence. Heaggan-Brown told state agents that he believed Smith’s gun “flew” out of his hand over a fence after the first shot. The officer said he thought Smith was reaching for another weapon in his waistband so he fired the second shot. Chisholm’s office said he would not hold any news conference or issue any statement Thursday on the charge and the video would not be released. Heaggan-Brown was scheduled to make an initial court appearance Friday. His attorney, Jonathan Smith, said that he hasn’t seen any of the state’s evidence but a read of the criminal complaint raises “issues.” He didn’t elaborate but did promise a “vigorous” defense.
Smith’s family issued a statement thanking Chisholm. “We appreciate that the District Attorney has shown independence and sound judgment in prosecuting the officer who shot and killed Sylville,” the statement said. “We also appreciate that this is but the first step in holding that officer accountable, but a necessary step in bringing some measure of justice.” His mother, Mildred Haynes, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel the charge should have been tougher. “He shot him in the arm and shot him again in the chest . ... To me, he shot to kill,” she said.—AP