Thursday, 21 September, 2017

Family urges calm after Milwaukee ex-cop's acquittal

Deliberations in Milwaukee police shooting enter second day The Latest: Verdict reached in police shooting trial
Kelley Robertson | 22 June, 2017, 06:48

The Milwaukee police officer who fatally shot 23-year-old Sylville Smith last summer has been acquitted of criminal charges.

Officers chased Smith on foot after he ran from a traffic stop near 44th and Auer.

Prosecutors focused on the second of two shots aimed at Smith, saying he was no longer armed by that time and the officer should not have fired again. An official from Milwaukee County's medical examiner's office said that the second shot traveled through Mr. Smith's heart and lung and was "not survivable".

The fatal shooting sparked several days of rioting in Smith's predominantly black Milwaukee neighborhood.

On Oct. 31, Heaggan-Brown was sacked from the Milwaukee Police Department for a separate incident involving sexual assault allegations against him. He faced up to 60 years in prison if he had been convicted.

Heaggan-Brown was sacked two months later after he was charged in an unrelated sexual assault.

Sylville Smith's sister, Sherelle Smith, asked for calm and for people to come together in peace.

The jury could have found Heaggan-Brown guilty of two lesser charges of second-degree reckless homicide or homicide by negligent use of a firearm. Defense attorneys argued Heaggan-Brown had to act quickly to defend himself.

The former officer still faces charges in an unrelated sexual assault investigation. Heaggan-Brown's acquittal came less than a week after a Minnesota officer, Jeronimo Yanez, was acquitted in the shooting death of a black motorist seconds after the motorist informed him he had a gun.

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.

Heaggan-Brown had previously said he believed Smith "was reaching for his waist so he discharged his weapon a second time".

"According to the complaint, Smith had tossed his gun over a fence and was lying on the ground unarmed when the second bullet killed him", the member station added. Smith, who was armed with a handgun, ran away from the officers when he saw them exit their squad vehicle.

And all six Baltimore officers charged over the 2015 death of Freddie Gray, due to spinal cord injuries suffered in the back of a police van, were eventually cleared. But the case is different from recent high-profile police shootings that have inspired a national conversation about how officers interact with African-Americans: Heaggan-Brown and Smith are both black and from the north side of the city where the shooting occurred.

But Heaggan-Brown's attorneys say he feared for his safety and had to make a split-second decision.

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