Jury finds Milwaukee officer not guilty in fatal shooting of Sylville Smith

Olive Rios
June 26, 2017

A jury in Milwaukee has acquitted former officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown of a reckless homicide charge over the fatal shooting of Sylville Smith last August.

"Sylville Smith-a loving 23 year-old father, son, brother, and friend- should be alive today, raising his three-year-old son".

The family of Milwaukee police shooting victim Sylville Smith has filed a civil wrongful death suit against the city and fired officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown. Smith ran from police, carrying a gun, while the former officer was in pursuit.

Dominique Heaggan-Brown, who is also black, was one of two uniformed police officers on patrol who stopped two men in a auto.

"Obviously, [Heaggan-Brown's] very pleased".

Heaggan-Brown's attorneys argued that he acted in self-defense and was forced to make a quick decision about whether to shoot.

The shooting in August touched off two days of protests and violence on this city's north side.

Heaggan-Brown stared at the judge as the verdict was read with little reaction.

Milwaukee's Sherman Park neighborhood was calm Wednesday night after the jury acquitted the former officer.

A search warrant for the vehicle Smith was seen running from was found to have cocaine, heroin and prescription drugs in it.

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

In the encounter with Smith, Heaggan-Brown and two other officers had approached Smith's rental auto because it was parked more than a foot from the curb and they believed a drug deal was about to take place. Smith, who was holding a gun by the barrel, attempted to throw it over the fence, presumably to surrender to the police unarmed so he could live.

Body-camera video showed Heaggan-Brown shooting Smith once in the arm as he appeared to be throwing the gun over a fence.

The defense also claimed a not-guilty verdict was warranted because Heaggan-Brown showed respect for Smith's life by not firing multiple shots, and instead chose to shoot twice then check Smith's pulse. At the same time, they understand that this tremendous amount of discretionary power is given to police officers - - the power over life and death in certain circumstances - - and they want that to be accountable. According to a report by HuffPost a year ago, only 13 officers were convicted of murder or manslaughter in fatal on-duty shootings from 2005 to 2015.

Prosecutors argued that it was unnecessary when Heaggan-Brown discharged his weapon a second time.

The case hinged on whether Smith was a threat to the officer as he was on his back and away from the gun. That's when Heaggan-Brown shot Smith again, this time in the chest, killing him in the process.

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. As a result, the officer was counseled on avoiding associations that may jeopardize ones' integrity, the complaint states.

Officer Heaggan-Brown has pleaded not guilty to those charges.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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