Tag Archives: Edward Flynn

Officer who shot Sylville Smith charged with rape, sexual assault

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.

 

Struggling man killed by Milwaukee policeman he knew from school

The man killed in a police shooting that sparked two nights of violence in Milwaukee suffered from cognitive and mental health issues, and he carried a gun because he had been shot more than once in the past, his grandfather said.

Sylville Smith had a lengthy criminal past, but was just trying to survive in the inner city, William Brookins told The Associated Press.

“In this city, there’s a lot of killings going on in the street,” said Brookins, who detailed Smith’s problems in a letter to a judge last year seeking mercy for his grandson. “He was afraid for his life. He was concerned about his safety and surviving.”

Smith, 23, was shot and killed Saturday after a brief foot chase that followed a traffic stop. Police say Smith was fleeing, and officials have said the officer’s body camera shows him being shot after he turned toward the officer with a gun in his hand.

CNN reported that the as-yet unnamed officer responsible for the shooting knew Sylville from high school.

“The officer knew him personally from high school and he still shot him,” Sylville Smith’s sister Sherelle Smith told CNN.

“He didn’t like my brother,” she said. “The officer had a career, but my brother was more popular. He used to harass Sylville.”

A source close to the family accused the young officer, who like Sylville Smith was a young African-American man, of having a “personal vendetta” against Smith.

A few hours after the shooting, violence erupted on the city’s largely black North Side, with protesters hurling rocks at police and burning six businesses. A lighter night of protests followed Sunday. Monday was calm, though 10 people were arrested. There were no reports of protesters gathering on Tuesday night.

The cost of damages to eight buildings during the riots could be in the millions, according to multiple sources. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, MPD Chief Edward Flynn and other leaders have blamed outside agitators, particularly from Chicago, for inciting the violence.

Flynn blamed a Chicago chapter of the Revolutionary Communist Party for upending what had begun as a peaceful demonstration on Aug. 13. Fourteen people were arrested. Three police officers and four sheriff’s deputies were hurt.

Run-ins with the law

Smith had several run-ins with the law dating to 2013, including speeding, driving without insurance, driving with a suspended license and having open alcohol in a vehicle.

In 2013, he was charged with felony retail theft for allegedly stealing $1,600 worth of DVDs from a Milwaukee Wal-Mart. According to a criminal complaint, Smith and another man were seen removing fans from their boxes and putting the DVDs in the boxes. Prosecutors later dismissed the charge.

A year later, he was charged with carrying a concealed weapon without a permit, a misdemeanor. According to court documents, two officers on bike patrol approached Smith and his friends after smelling marijuana in their vehicle and found a loaded .45-caliber pistol under Smith’s shirt. Smith pleaded guilty and was sentenced to one day in jail.

In early 2015, Smith was charged with reckless endangerment, a felony. Investigators alleged he opened fire on a man in retaliation for the man’s role in a fight between some girls weeks earlier. According to a complaint, Smith and the man got into a car chase before the man finally stopped and ran on foot. Smith chased after the man and shot at him. He eluded Smith by hiding behind a house, according to the complaint.

As that case was pending, Smith was charged with felony intimidation of a witness — the man he was accused of shooting at. Prosecutors said he had his girlfriend call the man and pressure him to recant. The man did, according to prosecutors, who dropped both cases that year.

Brookins said his grandson’s criminal record was “nothing in comparison to other people.” He said Smith had never been convicted of a felony.

“That’s the law, OK,” Brookins said. “He’s not guilty.”

He described Smith as a good kid with a “beautiful personality.”

Smith was known for his hip-hop dance moves and trained in gymnastics when he was in middle school, Brookins said.

He also suffered from mental health issues, Brookins said. He declined to go into detail, saying only that Smith had problems with “comprehension and understanding” and spent time in special classes in elementary and middle school. In a letter to the judge in the reckless endangerment case, Brookins wrote that Smith was receiving Social Security payments because of his mental health problems.

Smith had been shot on more than one occasion, Brookins said. The last time was “a few years ago” when he was hit six times in front of his mother’s house. His grandfather did not have any information on what precipitated the shooting but said Smith still carried bullet fragments in his body.

Smith started carrying a gun after that incident.

“That really had a great effect on him and his fear of being hurt and the need to protect himself from people trying to do him harm,” Brookins said.

Milwaukee police could not immediately confirm Brookins’ account. A spokesman told The Associated Press to file a records request.

Smith’s mother, Mildred Haynes, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that her son had recently received his concealed-carry license because he had been shot twice and robbed four times, including a robbery in which he was stripped of all his clothes. He leaves behind a 2-year-old son.

“I’m not going to say he was an angel. He was out here living his life,” Smith’s godmother, Katherine Mahmoud, told the newspaper.

“It’s hard to grasp he’s no longer here,” Brookins said. “Oh, my God. This is terrible

 

 

Bar rises for Milwaukee police review after latest shooting

Milwaukee, shaken by violence after a shooting by police, is one of a few U.S. cities to have volunteered for federal government review of its police force and may now be held to higher standards for how it responds.

Beginning in December, the review included a public “listening session” that, according to Milwaukee media, drew 700 people to a library auditorium to air their frustrations to U.S. Department of Justice officials.

Some community leaders said the weekend violence should result in a tougher review and real change.

“I would hope that the cries of the unheard … are now being heard around the country out of Milwaukee,” said Rev. Steve Jerbi, the lead pastor at All Peoples Church in the Wisconsin city of about 595,000 people.

The Obama administration has promoted a $10 million nationwide voluntary review program as a way to improve policing amid nationwide complaints of racial profiling and targeting. Milwaukee has become the latest U.S. city to experience discord after high-profile police killings of black men over the past two years.

The review in Milwaukee will look at issues such as use of force, the disciplinary system and diversity in hiring. The city was 45 percent white in the 2010 Census, while the police department is 68 percent white.

“Expectations of the report itself and of departmental compliance with the report are going to be raised,” said David Harris, a University of Pittsburgh law professor who studies police behavior.

There is skepticism of how Milwaukee authorities will respond to federal recommendations, after past responses fell short of demands.

Fred Royal, president of the NAACP’s Milwaukee branch, noted that the recommendations would not be legally binding, unlike those for cities such as Cleveland, Ohio, where police use of deadly force and other practices were being scrutinized under so-called consent decrees — settlements without a final ruling by a judge.

“They don’t have the teeth that a consent decree has,” Royal said.

Businesses were torched and gunfire erupted in Milwaukee after the shooting on Saturday of a black man, Sylville K. Smith, 23. Police said he refused to drop a handgun when he was killed, and on Monday, the city imposed a curfew.

“My experience with the Milwaukee Police Department has been that it is a department in desperate need of fundamental change,” said Flint Taylor, a Chicago civil rights lawyer who has sued Milwaukee over police tactics.

A spokesman for the Milwaukee Police Department said officials were not available for an interview.

Police Chief Edward Flynn has said previously that his department has made progress and can withstand scrutiny.

A Justice Department spokeswoman said officials there declined an interview request.

The Justice Department is expected to release its findings within about two months. Milwaukee could then receive outside assistance and monitoring for up to two years.

Making the challenge tougher are deep problems of poverty and segregation in Milwaukee, the 31st largest city in the United States.

Milwaukee was ranked as the most segregated city in America by the Brookings Institution last year and in the neighborhood where the rioting took place more than 30 percent of people live in poverty.

Residents have protested past police shootings, such as the 2014 killing in which an unarmed, mentally ill black man, Dontre Hamilton, was shot 14 times. An officer was dismissed but no one was charged.

In 2011, another black man, Derek Williams, died in the back of a Milwaukee police car after he told officers he could not breathe and needed help, according to a lawsuit his family filed. The city has not responded to the lawsuit.

And in January this year, Milwaukee officials approved a $5 million settlement with 74 black men who said they had been subjected to illegal strip and cavity searches.

Las Vegas, which volunteered for the same federal program after a series of shootings there in 2011, was handed a list of 75 findings and recommendations by the Justice Department, and 18 months later it had completed 90 percent of the recommendations, the department said.

Philadelphia and San Francisco are among other cities under review.

Reporting by David Ingram in New York; Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee and Julia Harte in Washington; Editing by Dina Kyriakidou Contini and Grant McCool.

1 person shot, officer injured on 2nd night of Milwaukee protests

Tension flared again on Aug. 14, with one person shot and a police officer injured, in the Milwaukee area where the fatal shooting of a suspect by an officer had sparked rioting, prompting Wisconsin’s governor to activate the National Guard.

Police violence against African-Americans has set off intermittent, sometimes violent protests in the past two years, igniting a national debate over race and policing and giving rise to the Black Lives Matter movement.

After peaceful vigils by small groups of demonstrators earlier, Milwaukee police said late on Aug. 14 they had rescued one shooting victim, who was taken to hospital.

It was not known whether the injured person was a protester.

One police officer was hospitalized after a rock smashed a patrol car windshield, the MPD said.

Police said they began attempting to disperse crowds after shots were fired and objects, including rocks and bottles, were thrown by some protesters. Several arrests were reported.

About 20 police in riot gear faced a group of more than 100 protesters in a tense standoff that continued into the early morning hours, punctuated by sporadic reports of gunfire.

Despite the violence, police said the National Guard had not been called in, as authorities worked to restore order.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker took the precaution of activating the National Guard in case more violence broke out over the death of Sylville K. Smith, 23, who was shot while trying to flee from an officer who had stopped his car.

Aiming to reassure the community that the police acted properly, Chief Edward Flynn said on Sunday he had viewed video from the officer’s body camera and it showed Smith had turned toward him with a gun in his hand after a traffic stop.

The Sherman Park neighborhood, where a heated confrontation between residents and officers clad in riot gear turned violent overnight, had been peaceful at dusk.

About 200 people lit candles and gathered near the spot where Smith was shot. A few officers looked on as faith and community leaders implored protesters to restrain their anger.

“We are not ignorant and stupid people,” a pastor told the crowd, echoing a feeling among many of the city’s African-Americans that they are systematically mistreated.

“Every single person needs to be looked upon as human beings and not like savages and animals.”

The previous night, shots were fired, six businesses were burned and police cars damaged before calm was restored in the area, which has a reputation for poverty and crime.

Seventeen people were arrested, and four officers were injured.

At a news conference with Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Flynn said the officer who fired the fatal shot was black and media reports also identified Smith as black.

He said a silent video of the incident appeared to show the officer acting within lawful bounds. He said the officer stopped Smith’s vehicle because he was behaving suspiciously and then had to chase him several dozen feet on foot into an enclosed space between two houses.

He said the moment when the officer fired his weapon could not be determined because the audio was delayed.

“I’m looking at a silent movie that doesn’t necessarily tell me everything that will come out in a thorough investigation,” Flynn said. “You know the fog of war. You know first reports are frequently wrong or slightly off.

“I know what I saw. Based on what I saw, didn’t hear, don’t know what the autopsy results are going to be, he certainly appeared to be within lawful bounds,” Flynn said of the officer.

The mayor said Smith did not drop the gun as ordered before he was shot.

Smith had a lengthy arrest record, Barrett said, and officials said earlier he was carrying a stolen handgun loaded with 23 rounds of ammunition when stopped.

‘DID NOT DESERVE’ TO BE SHOT

On the evening of Aug. 14, several of Smith’s sisters addressed the crowd, saying their brother “did not deserve” to be shot.

“My brother was no felon,” said one of them, Kimberly Neal, 24, as she wept. “My brother was running for his life. He was shot in his back.”

Walker announced the National Guard activation after a request from Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, who met Walker and Wisconsin National Guard Adjutant General Donald Dunbar.

But Barrett said any decision to deploy the troops would come from the police chief.

The National Guard, which is under the dual control of the federal and state governments, was deployed in Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2014 after several nights of rioting over the police killing of an unarmed black man.

This summer has brought deadly ambushes of police. Five officers were slain by a sniper in Dallas last month as they provided security at an otherwise peaceful protest against police killings. Three officers were killed by a gunman in Baton Rouge less than two weeks later.

Policing in Milwaukee has come under scrutiny since 2014, when Dontre Hamilton, a mentally ill, unarmed black man, was fatally shot in a park by a white officer, an incident that sparked largely peaceful protests.

Additional reporting by Chris Michaud and Laila Kearney in New York and Julia Harte in Washington; Writing by Frank McGurty, Bill Trott and Chris Michaud; Editing by Howard Goller, Michael Perry and Clarence Fernandez.

National Guard on standby in Milwaukee following riots in Sherman Park

The National Guard  has been put on standby to assist the Milwaukee Police Department — if needed — after protests last night turned violent in the city’s Sherman Park neighborhood, said Mayor Tom Barrett during a news conference this afternoon.

Barrett said Gov. Scott Walker decided to call for federal assistance after consulting with him by telephone; but the decision on whether to deploy the National Guard would be made by MPD Chief Edward Flynn, who is monitoring the situation.

Barrett said he’d never seen anything in Milwaukee like the melee that broke out yesterday near North 35th Street and West Burleigh, where several businesses — including a BMO Harris Bank branch, a beauty supply company and O’Reilly Auto Parts stores — were set on fire.

“Last night was unlike anything I have ever seen in my adult life in this city. I hope I never see it again,” said the mayor, who was visibly shaken.

The riotous situation was sparked by the fatal police shooting of a man yesterday. He was running from police after his car was stopped due to what MPD called “suspicious” behavior.

As many as 800 protesters clashed with police officers for several hours last night before police were able to bring the situation under control. Four officers were injured during the standoff with the crowd, and some media outlets reported that shots were fired by protesters at the police. Barrett and other officials said the riot was fueled by calls for action on social media.

Milwaukee has avoided eruptions of violence following police shootings of unarmed black men in the city and elsewhere over the past two years. City officials expressed disappointment about yesterday’s tragic events.

According to some officials, recent years have seen progress in the predominantly black Sherman Park area. Several dozen volunteers associated with the Coalition for Justice assisted the city this morning with cleaning up the rubble left from last night’s riots, according to The Associated Press

At this afternoon’s news conference, Flynn identified the man killed as 23-year-old Sylville K. Smith, who has a “lengthy arrest record,” according to police. Barrett said that a still image pulled from a video of the shooting recorded by body camera shows “without question” that Smith had a gun in his hand when he was shot. Barrett said the video is part of a vigorous state investigation of the shooting.

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel promised today that the state’s Department of Justice would quickly to come to a conclusion about whether there’s any criminal culpability in Smith’s death. Unlike similar high-profile shootings, in this case both Smith and the officer who shot him are African American.

Police said the semi-automatic gun that Smith was carrying was stolen in Waukesha.

It remains unclear whether Smith was threatening police or just seeking to elude them at the time he was shot. Barrett said a thorough examination of the footage taken from the officer’s body camera is underway to assess exactly how the killing unfolded.

Both the victim and the officer who shot him are black.

U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore was among the leaders who’ve called for peace tonight on Milwaukee’s streets.

“As details continue to emerge about this shooting, I ask our community to remain calm and recommit to doing everything in our collective power to live up to our nation’s promise of ‘justice for all.’ Together, Milwaukee will weather this storm,” Moore said in a press statement.

“I share the frustration of my constituents who feel they live in a city where justice is only afforded to some and not all. I also share the frustration of our local police officers who are desperately trying to uphold public safety in what they perceive as a caustic climate. We must find a way to strike a balance where we can peacefully point out the racial inequities in our society while recognizing the valuable role police play in our community.

Moore and others called on leaders to address the social issues beneath incidents such as Saturday’s.

“We simply cannot close our eyes to the hostile environment cultivated by the flagrant racial inequality and segregation that has plagued Milwaukee for generations,” Moore said.

Many people — public officials, religious leaders and ordinary citizens — weighed in about yesterday’s shooting on social media.

Milwaukee Ald. Khalif Rainey posted a statement last night that was shared by many on Facebook today.

“The city has watched this particular neighborhood (Sherman Park), throughout the entire summer, be a powder keg. From incidents in the park, to shootings, this entire community has witnessed how Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has become the worst place to live for African Americans in the entire country. Now this is the warning cry,” Rainey wrote.

“Where do we go as a community from here? Do we continue with the inequity, the injustice, the unemployment, the under-education that creates these byproducts that we see this evening? Do we continue that?

“Something has to be done here in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to address these issues. The black people of Milwaukee are tired of living under oppression. This is their existence. This is their life, and the lives of their children.

What happened tonight was not right, I am not justifying that. But no one can deny the fact that there are racial problems here that have to be rectified.”

Civil rights lawsuit filed in Milwaukee police custody death

The family of a man who died in Milwaukee police custody five years ago filed a federal civil rights lawsuit Wednesday against the city and the officers involved.

Derek Williams died July 6, 2011, after struggling to breathe while handcuffed in the back seat of a squad car. The 22-year-old Williams, a robbery suspect, can be seen in squad car video pleading for medical help.

Samster, Konkel & Safran is representing Williams’ estate and his three children, ages 5, 6 and 7. The law firm said in a Wednesday news release that Williams’ death was a “direct consequence” of the police department’s lack of policy on how to deal with a person in custody who is in physical distress.

The Milwaukee County district attorney, police department and a special prosecutor have cleared the officers involved of any wrongdoing.

“It is unconscionable that no Milwaukee Police Department officers have been held responsible for Mr. Williams’ death. We are committed to obtaining some modicum of justice for Mr. Williams’ children and again shining a light on the Milwaukee Police Department,” Jonathan Safran, an attorney for the family, said at a news conference.

Fox6 News reports that Milwaukee police officials have declined to comment because the lawsuit is pending.

During Williams’ arrest, Officer Richard Ticcioni put his knee across Williams’ back. That was when Williams said for the first time that he couldn’t breathe, according to inquest testimony from Officer Craig Thimm. He was also named in the lawsuit, which claims police violated Williams’ civil rights.

Officers Jeffrey Cline and Jason Bleichwehl each spent time in the squad car’s front seat as Williams struggled to breathe for nearly eight minutes, the video shows. When Williams said he couldn’t breathe, Cline responded: “You’re breathing just fine.”

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the police department’s policy at the time stated: “Members shall remain cognizant of any changes in the condition of an arrestee that would require medical treatment. If medical treatment becomes necessary, members shall immediately request medical assistance by telephone or radio.”

After Williams’ death, Police Chief Edward Flynn issued an internal memo explaining medical distress and directing officers to call paramedics if a prisoner has trouble breathing or is in pain.