Dominique Heaggan-Brown, a former Milwaukee police officer, shot and killed Sylville Smith, 23, on August 13 of this year after he fled from police. The killing precipitated two days of rioting and arrests in Milwaukee and added to the national debate over relations between police departments and the broader community.
Body camera video prompted prosecutors to charge Heaggan-Brown, which showed that he shot Smith in the chest as he lay on the ground. Smith had been armed with a pistol, but threw it over a fence before his death. Both Smith and Heaggan-Brown are black.
Heaggan-Brown has been charged with first-degree reckless homicide. He had been fired from the force on an unrelated charge of sexual assault. The 24-year-old ex-cop faced a court today.
According to a complaint filed by prosecutors, video footage showed that Smith fell on his back after being shot by Heaggan-Brown, who had pursued him along with other officers on foot. The first bullet fired by Heaggan-Brown struck Smith’s right arm while he was turning "his head and upper body towards the officers", while still holding his semi-automatic pistol.
According to the complaint, Smith “then raises the gun upward while looking in the direction of the officers and throws the gun over the fence into the yard." Once he was hit, Smith fell on his back, while his arms extended upwards toward his head.
"Heaggan-Brown is observed standing a short distance from Smith with his weapon pointed down at Smith when Heaggan-Brown discharges a second shot from his weapon at what appears to be Smith's chest," according to the criminal complaint. The body camera, said the complaint, “confirms that at the time of the second shot, Smith was unarmed and had his hands near his head".
Heaggan-Brown was fired from the Milwaukee police force in October, following a charge of sexual assault of a man. According to prosecutors, Heaggan-Brown visited a bar with another man on August 14: one day after the shooting occurred while rioting and flames grew in Milwaukee. There the two men drank and watched reports of the disturbances on TV. Heaggan-Brown bragged, said the report, and said that he could act at will and without consequences. Later, the man said that he found Heaggan-Brown sexual assaulting him. Heaggan-Smith has been charged with solicitating sex and sexual assault in July of this year.
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