Swift acquittal for former Milwaukee cop charged in shooting

Dominique Heaggan Brown

Former Milwaukee police officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown was acquitted in the fatal 2016 shooting of Sylville Smith, a death that ignited protests and violence on the city's north side.

The department alleged that Smith ran during a police stop and that he refused to drop a stolen gun on Heaggan-Brown's orders. The officer's defense attorneys argued that he was in fact following police procedure at every step of the incident-particularly a policy that told officers to expect that a suspect with one weapon might have another.

Heaggan-Brown then shot Smith in the arm, and Smith fell to the ground on his back.

Smith - who had a "lengthy arrest record" - was lying on the ground when he received another shot that killed him. Just one day later, Heaggan-Brown was accused of sexually assaulting a man he met in a bar in Milwaukee.

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.

FILE - This undated file photo provided by the Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office shows Sylville Smith.

The fatal encounter transpired over 12 seconds from the time Heaggan-Brown got out of his auto to begin chasing Smith to when the fatal shot was sacked.

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The prosecution argued that Smith was defenseless and "looked like a child" at the moment when he was killed. "They made that decision". According to a report by HuffPost previous year, only 13 officers were convicted of murder or manslaughter in fatal on-duty shootings from 2005 to 2015.

Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, who made the decision to charge Heaggan-Brown, said he did not agree with the verdict but would respect it.

Five days before the former Milwaukee officer was found not guilty, a Minnesota police officer was also acquitted in another high-profile shooting that sparked intense protests.

Before the fatal shooting near 44th and Auer on August 13th, 2016, Heaggan-Brown had only been a Milwaukee police officer for three years. The videos, and Heaggan-Brown's statement to state investigators two days later, became central evidence to the state's case. Smith and Heaggan-Brown are both black. They believed it was involved in drug dealing.

The first shot fired by Heaggan-Brown was justified, Chisholm said, because Smith was holding the gun.

Heagann-Brown, who faced up to 60 years in prison, "engaged in a pervasive pattern of excessive force and misconduct", according to the family's civil suit filed against the city after the criminal trial verdict, yet he was allowed to stay on the force.

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