Former Milwaukee police officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown, who fatally shot Sylville Smith during an August 2016 foot chase, was found not guilty of first-degree reckless homicide on Wednesday (June 21).
The two engaged in a foot chase after Smith fled from a traffic stop on August 13. Heaggan-Brown shot first, firing a bullet at Smith, and striking him in the arm.
The shots, 1.7 seconds apart, ended the brief foot chase that lasted 12 seconds.
The death sparked riots on Milwaukee's north side, as The Two Way reported.
Heaggan-Brown was sacked two months after the shooting when he was charged with sexual assault in an unrelated case.
Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm told jurors Heaggan-Brown didn't need to use deadly force against Smith, who had thrown away the gun he was carrying.
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The first shot fired by Heaggan-Brown was justified, Chisholm said, because Smith was holding the gun. He faced up to 60 years in prison if he had been convicted. He was sacked after being accused of the sexual assault of another man.
"This guy is somebody we now know was engaged in all sorts of criminal conduct, shouldn't have been there", the Smith family attorney, David Owens, told reporters after the verdict.
According to Fox6Now, the jury returned the not guilty verdict on a charge of first-degree reckless homicide after entering into a second day of deliberations on Wednesday. Smith's defense attorneys argued the officer had been forced to act quickly. It was at that point that Heaggan-Brown shot him again ... fatally. After the second shot, Smith's arms and legs are still moving and he appears to bring his left hand toward his waistband.
While activist groups such as Black Lives Matter have drawn attention to police shootings in recent years, acquittals of police officers have become all but expected in these sorts of incidents.
The second and fatal shot was sacked after Smith tossed his gun and dropped to the ground. Prosecutors contend Smith was defenseless when Heaggan-Brown shot him in the chest because Smith had thrown his gun over a fence.
The jury that acquitted Heaggan-Brown consisted of nine women and three men. The trial judge is also allowing jurors to consider two lesser charges: second-degree reckless homicide, and reckless use of a firearm. Four of the jurors are African-American.
But Heaggan-Brown's attorneys say he feared for his safety and had to make a split-second decision.