This past August the city of Milwaukee was in the national spotlight after a police shooting of a Black male. Sylville Smith was shot on the evening of Aug. 13 after police stopped a car with two Black males inside. After the shooting, dozens of residents took to the streets of Milwaukee to march in protest. The cop who fired the fatal shot was Dominique Heaggan-Brown, who knew and went to school with Smith. After the shooting, Milwaukee experienced two days of rioting that revealed intense racial strife in the Black community.
District Attorney John Chisholm has now charged Dominique Heaggan-Brown with first-degree reckless homicide in the shooting. The charges were not publically announced and instead were posted in online court records that also showed Heaggan-Brown made an initial court appearance Thursday. If convicted, Heaggan-Brown could face up to 60 years in prison.
Smith’s family issued the following statement: “We appreciate that the District Attorney has shown independence and sound judgment in prosecuting the officer who shot and killed Sylville. We also appreciate that this is but the first step in holding that officer accountable, but a necessary step in bringing some measure of justice. We always believed that Sylville should be alive today, and that this rogue officer was completely wrong. Though the decision to prosecute cannot bring back Sylville, justice is needed for our family as we continue to move through deep grief and seek justice for his wrongful death.”
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker also released a statement which reads: I’m not going to prejudge him until he goes through the legal process and we see, ultimately, what a jury or court decides. Again, I think overwhelmingly, I want to make it clear, overwhelmingly, law enforcement in this state does a tremendous job under difficult circumstances, but if people are violating the law, not matter if they’re in law enforcement or not, they should be held accountable.”
The Milwaukee Police Department fired Heaggan-Brown this past October but it had nothing to do with the Sylville Smith shooting. Heaggan-Brown was fired after an internal affairs investigation revealed that he sexually assaulted multiple victims. According to a criminal complaint, on Aug. 15, two days after Smith’s shooting, a victim reported to Milwaukee police that he had been sexually assaulted by Heaggan-Brown while off-duty. An investigation, conducted by MPD’s Internal Affairs Division and Sensitive Crimes Division, resulted in the criminal complaint filed by the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office. MPD’s investigation revealed additional allegations, resulting in added charges. The investigation revealed that Heaggan-Brown assaulted four victims in all. The incidents described in the complaint happened in December 2015, July 2016 and August 2016. Besides the first-degree reckless homicide, he also faces two felony counts of second-degree sexual assault, two misdemeanor prostitution counts and one felony count of capturing an intimate representation of a person without consent.