Former Milwaukee Cop Acquitted for Killing Sylville Smith

By Kenrya Rankin Jun 22, 2017

On August 13, former Milwaukee Police Department officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown shot and killed 23-year-old Black man Sylville Smith. Yesterday (June 21), a jury acquitted the officer—who was fired following an internal investigation into his alleged off-duty sexual assault—of first-degree reckless homicide. If he’d been found guilty, Heaggan-Brown, who is Black, could have been sentenced to 60 years in prison.

The department alleged that Smith ran during a police stop and that he refused to drop a stolen gun on Heaggan-Brown’s orders. Smith’s death sparked days of unrest in Milwaukee last August, as residents demanded justice in the face of state-sanctioned violence.

From the charging complaint filed against Heaggan-Brown, per NPR:

While Smith raises his gun upward, P.O. Heaggan-Brown discharges one shot from his service weapon at Smith and Smith falls to the ground on his back. It was later determined that Heaggan-Brown’s first shot struck Smith in his right bicep area with the bullet passing through Smith’s bicep and lodging in a window casement to the east of the shooting. After going to the ground, Smith was unarmed.

The video shows Smith fall to his back, with his legs and arms going up towards his head in what appears to be a half backwards roll. P.O. Heaggan-Brown is observed standing a short distance from Smith with his weapon pointed down at Smith when Heaggan-Brown discharges a second shot from his weapon at what appears to be Smith’s chest. After the second shot, Smith’s arms and legs are still moving and he appears to bring his left hand toward his waistband. A review of the body camera video from both Heaggan-Brown and [Officer] Malafa confirms that at the time of the second shot, Smith was unarmed and had his hands near his head.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that Smith’s family filed a wrongful death civil suit against the city and the former officer yesterday.