Former Milwaukee Police Officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown On Trial For First-Degree Reckless Homicide

Dominique Heaggan-Brown

Dominique Heaggan-Brown (25 years old) is a former Milwaukee police officer.  He shot and killed 23-year old Sylville Smith in Milwaukee’s Sherman Park neighborhood on August 13, 2016.  On December 15, 2016, Heaggan-Brown was charged with one count of first-degree reckless homicide.  If convicted, he can be sentenced to a maximum of 60 years in prison.

At the time of the shooting, Sylville was armed with a semi-automatic pistol.  Heaggan-Brown and his partner wore body cameras which show that Sylville threw the gun over a fence into a yard.  Heaggan-Brown shot Sylville, who fell to the ground on his back and had his hands near his head.  Heaggan-Brown then shot Syville again, center mass.  At the time he fired the second and fatal shot, Sylville was unarmed.

In his interview, Heaggan-Brown said that he fired once at which time he observed the pistol fly out of Smith’s hands and over the fence into the backyard of the residence. Smith then fell to the ground and Heaggan-Brown believed he was reaching for his waist so he discharged his weapon a second time.  At no time after the shooting did Heaggan-Brown or any other officer search Smith for a second firearm.

The killing set-off two days of violent protests in Milwaukee that the Milwaukee Fire Department said resulted in $5.8 million in damages.

On October 31, 2016, Heaggan-Brown was terminated from the Milwaukee police force, but not because of killing Sylville Smith.

According to the Milwaukee Police Department, the termination was the result of a Milwaukee Police Department Internal Affairs investigation that accused Heaggan-Brown of sexual assault.  According to the criminal complaint, on August 15, 2016, two days after he killed Sylville, Heaggan-Brown was off-duty when he sexually assaulted a man who he had been with in a bar.  The complaint reached back to include four other victims for incidents that took place in December 2015 and July 2016.

Heaggan-Brown is charged with two counts of second degree sexual assault, two counts of prostitution, and capture of an intimate representation without consent.

On Monday, Heaggan-Brown’s homicide trial began.  The focus of the first three days of testimony was body camera footage that recorded the chase and killing that was fewer than 15 seconds.  On Wednesday, jurors saw the footage from the camera worn by Heaggan-Brown’s partner.  On Thursday, the jury saw the clearer, more graphic footage from the defendant’s camera.

On Friday, the assistant medical examiner who conducted the autopsy on Sylville Smith testified that Smith was wounded in the right bicep and in the chest. She said the second shot is not a survivable injury.

Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm has told jurors that second shot was unnecessary because Smith was defenseless.

Prosecutors rested on Friday and Heaggan-Brown said in court that he will not testify.  The defense is expected to present an expert witness today.  Closing arguments are anticipated for this afternoon.

The jury, including 4 alternates, consists of 4 men and 12 women.  Three men are Black, and two of the women jurors are Black.  Jurors are sequestered for the duration of the trial.  From the news reports I could find, it appeared that the jury was seated in one-day, and there was no controversy over the race of the jurors.  That might be due to the fact that the former officer, Dominique Heaggan-Brown, and the victim, Sylville Smith, are both Black.

We continue following the retrial of Ray Tensing, charged in the death of Sam Dubose.  You can follow along with us at this link.

 

 

 

 

Posted on 06/19/2017, in Cases, Sylville Smith, Trial Videos and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.

  1. He’s Black. He’s toast.

    If he was white he would have a very good chance of getting away with this murder.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Jay,
      I had to take a serious assessment about this, particularly since Yanez was just acquitted. The first cop of the Baltimore 6 went to a jury trial that hung. He was not toast. But then, the cop who killed the 7 year old in Louisiana was found guilty.

      Ultimately, I think it’s the jurors. I’m not sure how that problem can be addressed or solved.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. yahtzeebutterfly

    Thanks for letting me know about this case and trial, Xena. I was not aware of it before reading your post.

    I found this video:

    Like

    • Yahtzee,
      Time for me to get on the soapbox.

      You and many others probably did not hear about the charge and trial because social media, in particular Twitter, is not talking about it. Those on social media who proclaim advocating for victims of police using deadly force skip over certain trials and certain people. For example, they made no mention of the trials of the officers who killed 7-year old Jeremy Mardis nor 95-year old John Wrana.

      They either discriminate when the officers are Black, or they discriminate because the victims were White, or both.

      That’s not right. That is not advocating for equal justice.

      If the use of deadly force is wrong, then it’s wrong regardless of the race of the officer who pulled the trigger, and regardless of the race of the person whose life was taken.

      (Xena, now getting off the soapbox.)

      Liked by 3 people

      • yahtzeebutterfly

        I agree with you, Xena. You used the soap box well!
        http://rs717.pbsrc.com/albums/ww173/prestonjjrtr/Smileys/soapbox.gif~c200

        Liked by 2 people

      • crustyolemothman

        Xena, Bless you for those words of wisdom! I hope and wish everyone would read and understand those words! Hate is a large part of the problems we have in this nation and is a very useful tool that is used to keep us under control and in our “place”! Perhaps it would be a good idea for each of us to look into our inner mirror and examine our own mindset to ensure that we have not actually turned into that which we claim to hate so much?

        Liked by 2 people

        • Mothman,
          Thank you for your kind words and your words of wisdom. Whether it’s called hypocrisy, double-standards, racial bigotry, favoritism, or just plain ignorance, they cause division and division is the reason why America cannot resolve problems and eliminate its transgressions. The separation of “them” and “ours” is noted by politicians and decision makers. They can and at times do, use it for propaganda purposes and in doing so, they become more able to continue and progress injustices.

          It’s as if they say, “Let’s kill a few homeless people, mentally ill, and disabled then charge the cops who killed but get a jury that will acquit or hang.” Homeless lives don’t matter. Lives of the mentally ill don’t matter. Lives of the disabled don’t matter. The thought appears to be that “if Black Lives Matter is the only voice against police using excessive force, then we can also send cops to prison who are Black for killing Blacks and Whites — even children, and Black Lives Matter won’t see what we’re doing.”

          Death does not discriminate. Until we come to that place to see the underlying workings of taking advantage of divisions because of race, we will not be able to distinguish between justifiable and unjustifiable use of force because the color of skin clouds our perception of equal justice. Either law enforcement is to be held accountable regardless of their race or the race of victims, or we are going to forever be in that place of being hypocritical bigots.

          Liked by 3 people

  3. The only update I’ve been able to find thus far for today says that Robert Willis testified for the defense. He has trained police officers and wrote Wisconsin’s Defensive and Arrest Tactics Manual. Willis testified that Heaggan-Brown acted in self-defense according to his training.

    Like

  4. yahtzeebutterfly

    Closing arguments were this morning. Jury deliberating now.
    http://fox6now.com/2017/06/20/closing-arguments-to-begin-in-trial-of-dominique-heaggan-brown/

    Like

  5. VERDICT The jury as acquitted Heaggan-Brown.

    Jurors were given the option to choose from two lesser charges instead of the first degree reckless homicide conviction — second-degree reckless homicide and homicide by negligent operation of a dangerous weapon. The lesser charges carry sentences of up to 25 years and 10 years respectively.

    Heaggan-Brown was acquitted on those charges as well by the jury Wednesday.

    http://fox6now.com/2017/06/21/jury-deliberations-enter-second-day-in-trial-of-dominique-heaggan-brown/

    Like

  6. Smith’s family has filed a civil suit against the City of Milwaukee and Heaggan-Brown. One of the basis for their suit is that the officer should not have been on the force at the time he killed Smith because of complaints against him for criminal behavior.

    Like

  7. “In his interview, Heaggan-Brown said that he fired once at which time he observed the pistol fly out of Smith’s hands and over the fence into the backyard of the residence. Smith then fell to the ground and Heaggan-Brown believed he was reaching for his waist so he discharged his weapon a second time. …..

    At no time after the shooting did Heaggan-Brown or any other officer search Smith for a second firearm.”

    JC

    Like

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