A Wisconsin jury returned their verdict in the shooting death of 23-year-old Sylville Smith sparked days of unrest in Milwaukee.
Shortly after 2PM CST, it was announced that Dominique Heaggan-Brown, the former Wisconsin police officer who shot Smith during an August 2016 foot chase, was found not guilty of first-degree reckless homicide.
News of Smith’s death sparked multiple nights of violence in 2016. All told, protestors caused millions of dollars in damage by vandalizing local businesses, setting fires, and destroying property throughout Milwaukee’s Sherman Park neighborhood.
In a surprising move today, Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn issued a statement in support of the decision, saying, “The jury’s verdict was based on the objective evidence before it. A year ago I told the public I’d seen nothing in the video that was a violation of the law or policy. The jury saw the same evidence and came to the same conclusion.”
Jonathan Smith, Heaggan-Brown’s defense attorney, argued his client followed training and fired the second, fatal shot because he believed his life was in danger.
“The state admits that the first shot was a justified shot,” he told the jury. “And our argument is that justification did not change over the course of 1.69 seconds between shots.”
Smith’s sister Sherelle came out of the courthouse this afternoon with a message to fellow Milwaukee residents: “Don’t give them a reason to take your life. Stop giving them a reason. Try as hard as you can to be peaceful.”
Let’s hope her message resonates with the community to prevent any further riots in the city and throughout the state.