No charges for Milwaukee officer who shot man 14 times; DOJ investigating as family, protesters react in outrage
Starbucks workers called police because Hamilton was sleeping in park
Two other officers responded twice, but left after saying man not doing anything wrong
Manney shot Hamilton even after on ground, some witnesses say
Autopsy report showed one gunshot in back, seven others at a downward trajectory from some distance, numerous bruises, clean toxicology, contradicting cop’s report of hand-to-hand battle with Hamilton
Milwaukee Governor puts National Guard on alert
December 22, 2014
VOD: Hundreds of protesters packed downtown Milwaukee streets Dec. 22 after it was announced that no charges would be brought against Officer Christopher Manney for killing Dontre Hamilton by shooting him 14 times April 30. Earlier on Dec. 19, 74 were arrested for causing a three-mile traffic jam on I-43 to protest the killing.
They marched despite calls from New York’s mayor for protests to cease until two officers shot to death there were buried. The protests followed dozens of others in Milwaukee since Dontre’s killing, including occupations of city hall and shopping centers.
The U.S. Department of Justice has now initiated an investigation of the killing.
Milwaukee has a long history of police killings of African Americans, detailed in the Milwaukee Sentinel-Journal at http://www.jsonline.com/watchdog/watchdogreports/derek-williams-death-in-milwaukee-police-custody-repeats-history/ A Dec. 9 study by Thomas Frolich in Think Stock.com recently declared Milwaukee the worst of 10 largest cities and states in the country for Blacks to live. Michigan came in sixth. Click on MICHIGAN RANKS 6TH AMONG 10 WORST STATES FOR BLACK AMERICANS for print version of study.
Aamer Madhani, 3:15 p.m. EST December 22, 2014
A former Milwaukee police officer will not be charged with a crime for the shooting death of a 31-year-old man with a history of mental illness, the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office announced Dec. 22.
The April 30 shooting of Dontre Hamilton in a downtown park by Officer Christopher Manney inspired a series of protests in Milwaukee, including one over the weekend that led to dozens of activists being arrested after shutting down I-43.
Manney shot Hamilton 14 times during an incident that occurred after workers at a nearby Starbucks called police to complain about him sleeping in Milwaukee’s Red Arrow Park.
“This was a tragic incident for the Hamilton family and for the community,” District Attorney John Chisholm said in a statement. “But, based on all the evidence and analysis presented in this report, I come to the conclusion that Officer Manney’s use of force in this incident was justified self-defense and that defense cannot be reasonably overcome to establish a basis to charge Officer Manney with a crime.”
The decision comes weeks after prosecutors in Missouri and New York cleared officers in high-profile cases in which police used force in Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island that have spurred nationwide protests and anger over treatment of African Americans by law enforcement.
The national debate over police relations with the African-American community escalated after the killing of two New York City police officers on [Dec. 20] by a man who cited his anger about the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases on social media.
Jonathan Safran, an attorney for the Hamilton family, said they were “extremely disappointed” with the decision and that the case “cries out for justice, criminal charges against Christopher Manney, and accountability to Dontre Hamilton’s family.” Safran also called on the Justice Department to investigate whether Hamilton’s civil rights were violated by Manney.
“The federal government knows that justice has to come to the people,” said Nate Hamilton, the brother of Dontre Hamilton, at an afternoon news conference.
Nate Hamilton added: “The people have been calm. The people have not stood up. So when will we stand up?”
The ACLU of Wisconsin also blasted the decision.
“If Officer Christopher Manney did not violate the law, then is anyone legally responsible for Mr. Hamilton’s death?” the civil liberties group said in a statement. “Does the criminal law protect individuals like Mr. Hamilton from deadly force exercised by police officers? Are police officers above the law?”
Manney showed up to Red Arrow Park after receiving a voice mail from his acting desk sergeant about “a homeless guy sleeping” in the park and asked him to respond, according to a report from Chisholm’s office.
At the time of the call, Manney was handling another unrelated incident and two other officers were dispatched to the park, but Manney was unaware of it. The two other officers checked on Hamilton twice and determined he wasn’t doing anything wrong. Hamilton’s family said he had battled schizophrenia and stopped taking his medication shortly before the shooting.
When Manney arrived in the park after the other officers had left, he said, he found Hamilton laying on the ground in the park and asked him to stand up. He said that Hamilton then stood up and turned his back to him. The police officer began patting-down Hamilton.
As Manney was conducting the frisk, he told investigators, Hamilton twisted his body so he was facing Manney.
Manney, who says Hamilton’s right hand was balled in a fist, said he tried to disengage from Hamilton, according to the DA’s report.
Hamilton lunged and then tried to strike Manney with his fist, according to the police officer’s account. Manny blocked the punch and struck Hamilton with an open palm to the chin. Hamilton then grabbed Manney in the shoulder area, pulling the police officer towards him and struck him on the right side of his head, the report said.
At that point, Manney felt he was losing control of the situation and decided to use his wooden baton on Hamilton.
“Manney separated from Hamilton, removed his baton with his left hand and transferred it to his right hand,” the report said. “When Hamilton continued to be aggressive, Manney struck him once in the rib area with the baton. Manney states that Hamilton trapped his baton between his arms and his torso and spun away from Manney. Manney attempted to retain control of his baton but could not.”
Manney also told investigators that he attempted to hit the emergency button on his radio but couldn’t reach it because of the struggle. As he tried to push away from Hamilton, Manney said, he felt a blow from his baton on the right side of his neck.
He told investigators that he felt he was out of options and decided to draw his weapon in the hope that Hamilton would stop. But he said Hamilton continued to approach wielding the baton.
“Manney fired his weapon but it did not seem to have any effect on Hamilton, so he continued to fire while walking backwards from Hamilton,” according to Manney’s account to investigators. “Hamilton fell forward and Manney continued to fire because he perceived Hamilton still to be a threat. He stopped firing when Hamilton was completely on the ground.” (VOD: note autopsy report brief below.**)
Chisholm said that a review of the incident by an outside expert on use of force by police, Emanuel Kapelsohn, concluded that Manney’s decision to fire his weapon was in line with his training.
“The Dontre Hamilton incident is quite unusual in that P.O. Manney appears to have tried every level of force on the Force Option Continuum before resorting to deadly force,” Kapelsohn wrote in his report.
As part of his report, the district attorney also released an autopsy sketch, detailing Hamilton’s wounds, as well as summaries of accounts from witnesses in and around the park that saw all or parts of the incident. Investigators heard conflicting accounts from witnesses who said that Manney continued to shoot Hamilton after he had fell to the ground.
But the autopsy revealed no conclusive evidence that any of the shots were fired while Hamilton was prone.
Police Chief Edward Flynn fired Manney in October, stating that the officer had identified Hamilton as mentally ill, but ignored department policy and treated him as a criminal by frisking him.
The Milwaukee Police Association condemned Manney’s firing as politically motivated, and members voted no confidence in Flynn soon after the firing.
Manney is currently appealing his dismissal.
Gov. Scott Walker has put Wisconsin National Guard troops on standby in case there is unrest in Milwaukee. He told reporters in Appleton on Monday that he didn’t anticipate violence, but had the troops ready out of an abundance of caution.
“It’s one of the great things about living in America—people have the right to protest,” Walker said. “They just don’t have the right to put other people’s lives at risk. I’m just asking that they be mindful of that.”
**VOD: The following description of the autopsy report is from the website of http://occupyriverwest.com/.
Note that the killer cop in this case falsely portrayed Hamilton as a large beast-like individual who continued to advance despite multiple gunshots. He was only 5’7.”
Similar descriptions were given of Michael Brown and Eric Garner by their killer cops. These racist descriptions indicated the cops did not consider their victims human. Earlier, Detroit police attempted to have the use of hollow point bullets authorized for similar reasons (in one case, they said they needed them because they would have made it easier to kill a 16-year-old in a heavy winter jacket for an unsuccessful fast food robbery.) Their original use was by invading British troops against Africans in the 19th century, who the British also considered sub-human.
“According to the autopsy, seven of the shots that hit Hamilton had a downward trajectory, and one of the bullet wounds showed that Hamilton was shot in the back from behind.
The autopsy also showed “no stippling or unburned or burned gunpowder particles on [Hamilton’s] skin,” which the family’s lawyers say shows that Hamilton was shot from some distance.
The medical examiner’s account also says that Hamilton had bruises on the right side of his chin, scalp and arm.
Toxicology results also showed no traces of illicit drugs in Hamilton’s system.
The medical examiner’s findings call into question how Manney described Hamilton in a memo he wrote to Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn on Oct. 1.
In his memo, Manney wrote that Hamilton had a “muscular build” and “most definitely would have overpowered … me or pretty much any officer I can think of, to tell you the truth. He was just that big, that muscular … I would say he would be impossible to control if you were one-man.”
Manney also described Hamilton as being “considerably younger than me, in much better shape than me, and much stronger and more muscular than me.”
But the autopsy results do not support Manney’s description. In the report, the medical examiner said that at the time of his death, Hamilton was a 169-pound, 5-foot-7 “well developed, overweight … adult-black male.”