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Milwaukee Officer Found Not Guilty in Fatal Shooting That Sparked Riots

by Corky Siemaszko /  / Updated 
Image: Former police officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown appears in court in Milwaukee
Former Milwaukee police officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown appears in Milwaukee County Court on June 20, 2017, in Milwaukee.Michael Sears / AP file

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A former Milwaukee police officer whose fatal shooting of a black man last year ignited two days of rioting in the Wisconsin city was found not guilty Wednesday of first-degree reckless homicide.

Dominique Heaggan-Brown was acquitted by a jury that deliberated for two days and concluded that he was justified when he shot 23-year-old Sylville Smith last Aug. 23 after a traffic stop.

Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm told the jury that Heaggan-Brown didn't need to open fire as he was chasing Smith on foot because the doomed man had thrown his gun away.

But Heaggan-Brown's lawyers argued that the officer made a split-second decision and buttressed that argument with bodycam footage which appeared to show Smith tossing his gun as he was hit in the arm — and getting hit in the chest with the fatal shot less than two seconds later.

Image: Former police officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown appears in court in Milwaukee
Former Milwaukee police officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown appears in Milwaukee County Court on June 20, 2017, in Milwaukee.Michael Sears / AP file

Heaggan-Brown could also be heard in the video complaining he'd been "stung by a bee."

The 12 person jury, which included four blacks, sided with the defense.

“The jury’s verdict was based on the objective evidence before it," Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn said in a statement after the verdict was announced. "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.”

Like Smith, Heaggan-Brown is African-American. But the shooting outraged many black residents in the highly-segregated Milwaukee, many of whom who have long complained about police brutality, and touched off 48 hours of uprising in the Sherman Park neighborhood.

Image:
Police move in on a group of protesters throwing rocks at them in Milwaukee Aug. 14, 2016.Jeffrey Phelps / AP file

Gov. Scott Walker was forced to call in the National Guard to restore order.

Heaggan-Brown was later accused of raping a man he'd met at a bar two days after the Smith shooting. He was fired from the force after that. That case hasn't been resolved yet.

Image: Sylville Smith
Sylville SmithMilwaukee County Sheriff / via AP

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