Former Milwaukee officer found not guilty in shooting death of Sylville Smith


On Monday, the jury was told it could find Officer Heaggan-Brown guilty of the original charge, first-degree reckless homicide, or of either of two lesser charges: second-degree reckless homicide, which carries a maximum of 15 years in prison, or homicide by negligent operation of a unsafe weapon, punishable by as many as five years in prison.

An investigation by the Wisconsin Department of Justice found that former-Milwaukee police officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown nearly didn't pull out his gun before shooting Sylville Smith last summer. Smith had a gun when he ran, but the case hinged on whether he was a threat when Heaggan-Brown fired the shot that killed him. Heaggan-Brown fired one shot at Smith's arm while he was holding a gun, then Smith threw the weapon over a fence. His attorney argued to jurors that the justification for the first shot clearly carried over to the less-than-a-second that passed before Heaggan-Brown made a decision to shoot again, as Smith continued moving.

Last August, then-Milwaukee Police Department Officer Heaggan-Brown and another officer approached Smith over suspicions that he was involved in a drug deal.

Heaggan-Brown, 25, was charged in December with first-degree reckless homicide for fatally shooting Smith in the Sherman Park area of the city.

Before he was charged in Smith's death, Heaggan-Brown was arrested and accused of sexually assaulting someone during the intense protests prompted by the shooting. Heaggan-Brown is still fighting those sexual assault charges. The officer is also African-American.

Heaggan-Brown's attorney also declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Prosecutors say the first shot was justified self-defense, but that Heaggan-Brown's second shot was a felony.

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Deliberations resume Wednesday and jurors have to decide whether Dominique Heaggan-Brown acted in self-defense when he killed Sylville Smith or if the former officer is guilty of first-degree reckless homicide or two lesser charges. Jurors began deliberating in that second trial on Monday. "It was unconscionable for defendant Heaggan-[Brown] to kill Sylville Smith by shooting him at point-blank range, standing above him, while Smith had already been shot and was completely unarmed", according to the complaint.

MCEVERS: What's happened to Officer Heaggan-Brown since the shooting? Smith and Heaggan-Brown are both black.

The night after the shooting of Mr. Smith, prosecutors said Officer Heaggan-Brown went to a bar, met a man, drank heavily and "bragged about being able to do whatever" he wanted "without repercussions". Thirty-four of those cases, or 41 percent, have ended in non-convictions. The case stands out for a few reasons, mainly this. "He was confronted by an armed criminal, and we're all fortunate that we didn't lose an officer", Crivello said.

Do you think police officers are on edge because of the abundance of weapons available?

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