UPDATE: The family of Dontre Hamilton placed mementos near the place where he died on Wednesday.
Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn announced Thursday that Hamilton had been mentally ill and had a long arrest record.
An officer shot the 31-year-old on Wednesday afternoon around 3:30 in the small park across the street from City Hall. Flynn says someone had summoned police, concerned about a man's behavior. Flynn says an officer patrolling the area on foot responded and found the man lying on the ground.
According to the chief, the officer helped the man to his feet and began questioning him, but the man began attacking the officer. Flynn says the officer tried to defend himself with his baton, but the man grabbed it and started hitting the officer. He then drew his gun and fired at the man several times, killing him.
Flynn says officers are trained to use the minimum amount of deadly force necessary to stop a threat.
"Certainly it’s very easy to fire a lot of shots with our semi-automatic weapons in a short period of time, but we do generally train them to fire and assess, so I would say this would indicate a level of great, an implicit feeling of threat from the officer, but as I say, we’ve really got to dig into that,” Flynn said.
The DOJ is reviewing the incident, along with the MPD, the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission and DA.
The officer was taken to the hospital and treated for head injuries. He is 38 years old and a 13-year veteran of the force.
Mayor Tom Barrett was in City Hall at the time of the incident and remarked to people that he thought he heard gunshots, but no lockdown was considered or needed.
“I want the people of this community to know that there is no reason for concern, that this was an isolated incident, clearly there was a tragic outcome but downtown Milwaukee is very safe," Barrett said.
Investigators have been interviewing witnesses, of which there were many. The park is frequently a busy spot with City Hall and the Marcus Center located nearby.
Flynn insisted Thursday that local, state and national government leaders are not doing enough to help people with mental illnesses. He says, as a result, police agencies such as his have become the social service agency of first resort. According to Flynn, the MPD receives 7,000 calls a year involving people with mental health problems.