The Milwaukee police officer who shot Sylville Smith, sparking riots in Sherman Park, has been charged with raping a man the night after the shooting.
Officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown, 24, was arrested Oct. 19. The alleged victim, unidentified in a criminal complaint, told police that Heaggan-Brown had sexually assaulted him after the two watched coverage of the riots on television together at a bar. Heaggan-Brown was off duty at the time.
An aspiring rapper, Heaggan-Brown fatally shot 23-year-old Sylville Smith on Aug. 13. Police said Smith was holding a gun when he was shot after a brief chase.
The two men knew each other from high school, according to Smith’s family.
Police said Heaggan-Brown is suspended and in custody and they have launched an internal investigation. Police Chief Ed Flynn told reporters during a news conference that nothing in Heaggan-Brown’s pre-hiring background check suggested he would be likely to engage in wrongdoing.
“It’s altogether awful,” Flynn said. “This individual has revealed his character in a way that did not come to light in the pre-hiring investigation.”
Heaggan-Brown’s attorney, Michael Steinle, didn’t immediately respond to messages seeking comment. Heaggan-Brown’s bail was set at $100,000. He’s set to appear at a preliminary hearing on Oct. 27.
According to the criminal complaint:
Heaggan-Brown took the victim to a bar late on the night of Aug. 14 where they drank heavily and watched TV as coverage of the protests aired. The victim told investigators that Heaggan-Brown bragged that he was the boss and that there were “no limitations” on how he lived and that he could do whatever he wanted “without repercussions.”
The victim told police the day after the alleged assault that he had trouble remembering everything that happened after they left the bar but that he felt drugged. He said he woke up to Heaggan-Brown sexually assaulting him.
The complaint said Heaggan-Brown took the man to St. Joseph’s Hospital early on Aug. 15. The officer told a security guard who helped him wheel the man inside that the man had had too much to drink and was “completely out, zonked out of his gourd.”
But when nurses began providing aid, the man “flipped out,” grabbed a security guard’s arm and exclaimed: “He raped me, he raped me,” indicating Heaggan-Brown.
Later that morning, Heaggan-Brown texted his mentor, Sgt. Joseph Hall, saying he had messed up “big time.”
“Need your help big time. … But need to handle this the most secret and right way possible,” the text read in part. The sergeant told investigators that Heaggan-Brown claimed the sex was consensual. Flynn said that Hall reported his contact with Heaggan-Brown to command staff but the sergeant is under internal investigation as well. Hall remains on duty.
“We’re going to get to the bottom of what that exchange was about,” Flynn said.
Using photographs and other data from the officer’s cellphone, the complaint said, investigators determined that Heaggan-Brown offered two other people money for sex several times — in December 2015 and in July and August of this year — and that he sexually assaulted another unconscious person in July, and photographed that victim naked without that person’s consent.
The charges include 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.
The head of Milwaukee’s police union said in a statement that the facts of the case will dictate the outcome.
“The MPA condemns all criminal behavior by any member of society, whether part of this organization or not,” the union’s president, Mike Crivello, said in the statement.
Heaggan-Brown joined the police department in July 2010 as an aide. Like Sylville Smith, Heaggan-Brown is black. The two men knew each other from high school, according to Smith’s family.
Heaggan-Brown was assigned to patrol the city’s heavily minority North Side.
Flynn has said that Sylville Smith was fleeing from a traffic stop when he was shot. Heaggan-Brown’s body camera showed that Smith was shot after he turned toward an officer with a gun in his hand, according to investigators.
Smith’s death sparked two nights of violence in the Sherman Park neighborhood, with several businesses burned. It also ramped up long-festering racial tension in Milwaukee.
The Wisconsin Department of Justice investigated Smith’s death and has turned the case over to Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm for a charging decision. It’s not clear when a decision in that case will be made.
Flynn said none of the alleged sexual assault victims are connected to Smith’s family.