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Milwaukee Cop Found Not Guilty of Shooting Syville Smith
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Sylville Smith

Summary: Former Milwaukee police officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown was found not guilty by a jury in the shooting death of Sylville Smith.

After fatally shooting Sylville Smith in August 2016 during a foot chase, former Milwaukee police officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown was found not guilty by a jury of nine women and three men. Heaggan-Brown had been charged with first-degree reckless homicide and was facing 60 years in prison. Judge Jeffrey Conen informed the jury that they could consider lesser charges of but he was cleared of all counts.


Smith’s family has already filed a lawsuit against Heaggan-Brown and the city. In that lawsuit, they claim that the city kept him employed as a police officer even though he had a “pervasive pattern of excessive force and misconduct.” This includes 16 “use of force” incidents. Heaggan-Brown has since been fired from the force and still faces an unrelated sexual assault investigation.

The sexual assault claim was filed by a man who told investigators that he was sexually assaulted by Heaggan-Brown two days after the shooting of Smith. The man states that the incident occurred the morning after a heavy night of drinking at a bar where they “watched television as coverage of the Sherman Park protests aired.”

Smith’s death sparked protests and overall unrest in the city with this verdict likely to do so again. His father, Patrick, called the verdict “disrespectful” but wants “the community to calm down and come together.” Smith’s sister Sherelle added, “Don’t give them a reason to take your life. Do something different in the community, try as hard as you can to be peaceful.”

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Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm said, “We pursued it aggressively and we presented a strong case. This is just an issue that this community had to decide. They made that decision.”

Defense attorney Jonathan Smith stated, “Obviously, everyone recognizes there was a loss of life, and I don’t think any officer would want to be put in that situation and to have to make those decisions that he did, but those decisions were made, and I think the jury properly evaluated them.”

Chisholm added, “The community relies on, depends and respects their law enforcement partners. 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. But when you look at it closely they’re looking at a circumstance which was fairly unique. … You can’t compare this to St. Paul. You can’t compare it to Ferguson.”

Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn said on Twitter, “A year ago I told the public I’d seen nothing in the video that was a violation of the law or policy. The jury saw the same evidence and came to the same conclusion.”

Heaggan-Brown and another officer spotted a man with a gun. When the man, Smith, saw the police he took off running with both officers in pursuit. The three rounded a corner toward a fence but Smith slipped. Heaggan-Brown fired a shot as Smith threw his gun over the fence, hitting Smith in the chest and firing a second shot 1.69 seconds later. Smith was carrying a Glock .40-caliber Model 22 semi-automatic with an extended 23 round magazine.

The defense argued that Heaggan-Brown believed Smith was reaching for another weapon when he fired the second shot. The prosecution argued that Smith was surrendering. Police officers are trained to expect suspects to have more than one weapon.

Do you think police officers are on edge because of the abundance of weapons available? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

To learn more about police officer-involved shootings, read these articles:




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