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