Cries of disapproval filled the courtroom on Wednesday afternoon, after a Milwaukee jury found former police officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown not guilty of reckless homicide. He shot and killed 23-year-old Sylville Smith following a foot chase last summer, igniting two days of violence in the city's Sherman Park neighborhood.
Milwaukee District Attorney John Chisholm had charged the former officer with first-degree reckless homicide, indicating the first shot he fired which hit Smith in the arm was justified because Smith had a gun. But, according to the complaint, a homicide charge was warranted because Smith had tossed his gun over a fence and was lying on the ground unarmed, wounded and defenseless when Heaggan-Brown fired the second and fatal shot.
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The defense argued that Heaggan-Brown was following officer training in ending a threat, that the former officer could not know whether Smith had another weapon on him and that the officer had to make a split-second decision. He fired both shots in less than two seconds.
The Milwaukee Police Department fired Heaggan-Brown a couple months after the shooting, after he was charged with an unrelated sexual assault. He is black, as was Smith.
An attorney for the Smith family says it is filing a civil lawsuit against the city and the former officer.