MILWAUKEE (AP) — A white Milwaukee police officer who was fired after he fatally shot a mentally ill black man in April won’t face criminal charges, the county’s top prosecutor said Monday.
Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm said Christopher Manney won’t be charged because he shot Dontre Hamilton in self-defense. Manney is at least the third white police officer to avoid charges in the past month after a confrontation that led to a black man’s death.
“Based on all the evidence and analysis presented in this report, I come to the conclusion that Officer Manney’s use of force in this incident was justified self-defense and that defense cannot be reasonably overcome to establish a basis to charge Officer Manney with a crime,” Chisholm said in a statement.
The Hamilton family reacted with disappointment and anger, immediately asking the U.S. attorney in Milwaukee to seek a federal investigation. At a chaotic news conference on the steps of the federal courthouse, two attorneys for the family urged that protests be peaceful “so as not to dishonor Dontre’s name and the Hamilton family name.”
But Hamilton’s brother Nate spoke bitterly, saying the family had “cried too long.”
“We don’t have to be the voice of reason,” he said. He called on people to stand with the family “so we can get rid of these pigs that kill us. Because that’s what they are.”
Manney’s attorney did not return a message seeking comment Monday morning.
The executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, Chris Ahmuty, issued a statement saying the decision not to charge Manney left “a cloud of uncertainty over the circumstances of and the responsibility for Mr. Hamilton’s death.”
Manney shot 31-year-old Hamilton on April 30 after responding to a call for a welfare check on a man sleeping in a downtown park. Manney said Hamilton resisted when he tried to frisk him. The two exchanged punches before Hamilton got hold of Manney’s baton and hit him on the neck, the former officer has said. Manney opened fire, hitting Hamilton 14 times.
Several witnesses told police they saw Hamilton holding Manney’s baton “in an aggressive posture” before Manney shot him, according to Chisholm’s report. Police said they have no video of the event.
Chisholm consulted with experts on the use of force by police officers, who concluded Manney’s conduct was justified. Emanuel Kapelsohn of the Peregrine Corporation said all the shots were discharged in 3 or 4 seconds and there was no evidence that Manney continued firing after Hamilton hit the ground.
Manney suffered minor injuries, including a bite to his right thumb, a neck strain and neck contusion, the report said. He was treated for post-concussion syndromes, a mild traumatic brain injury and had physical therapy for bicep and rotator cuff injuries, the report said.
Police Chief Edward Flynn fired Manney in October. He said at the time that Manney correctly identified Hamilton as mentally ill, but ignored department policy and treated him as a criminal by frisking him.
Hamilton’s family said he suffered from schizophrenia and had recently stopped taking his medication.
At a news conference, Chisholm said his assessment covered only whether Manney was justified in using deadly force, not whether the initial stop was handled properly. He invited anyone to review the full investigative file. “They’ll think we made a fair decision,” he said.
The Milwaukee Police Association condemned Manney’s firing as a political move, and members voted no confidence in Flynn soon after the firing. Manney has appealed his dismissal.
Hamilton’s death preceded the killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York City, but the case hasn’t attracted as much attention. Hamilton’s family has led mainly peaceful protests, trying to raise awareness about mental illness. Other protesters said his death underlined race concerns.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has said he will call up the National Guard if there is any violent reaction to the prosecutor’s decision. Police arrested 74 protesters Friday who blocked rush hour traffic on Interstate 43. On Monday, the state Department of Military Affairs activated its emergency operations center to monitor the situation in Milwaukee and coordinate activities between any affected state agencies.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.