MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A judge this week barred the Madison Police and Fire Commission from acting on a citizen complaint against a Madison police officer who shot and killed a man last year, effectively ending a complaint of excessive force brought by the man’s roommates.
Dane County Judge John Albert issued a preliminary injunction Tuesday that bars the commission from taking any action on the complaint, arguing that the officer would likely prevail in the case.
The injunction will remain in effect until Nov. 26, three days after Officer Stephen Heimsness is scheduled to resign, after which time the commission would no longer have any authority over him, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.
The complaint alleges that Heimsness violated the department’s policy on the use of deadly force when he killed Paul Heenan last November.
Heenan, 30, had been drinking and wandered into a neighbor’s home. The homeowner eventually realized Heenan was his neighbor and started walking him home, but his wife called police. Heimsness responded and shot Heenan even as the homeowner told the officer everything was OK, according to a lawsuit filed by Heenan’s family.
Heenan’s roommates, Nathan and Amelia Royko Maurer, filed a complaint with the Madison Police and Fire Commission.
Heimsness, through the state police union, asked the commission to dismiss the complaint. He argued that he was no longer a commissioned Madison police officer because he had taken a leave after the shooting. But the commission declined last month, noting that even though Heimsness was no longer commissioned, he was still being paid from accumulated sick leave until his resignation becomes effective.
The judge said in his ruling that Heimsness would likely prevail on the merits of his case against the commission. But the judge also said the complaint would become moot once Heimsness formally resigns, since the commission would no longer have jurisdiction over him at that point.
Madison lawyer Michael Short, who represented Heenan’s roommates, said he was disappointed by the ruling. He said the commission represents the only legitimate forum for average citizens to hold officers accountable, and he was also troubled by the fact that Heimsness was still being paid even though he never had to defend his actions before the commission.
Short said the roommates were weighing whether to appeal the decision.
Jim Palmer, the executive director of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association, the police union, said Albert made the “right call.”
Heimsness still faces the federal civil-rights lawsuit filed by Heenan’s family.
Information from: Wisconsin State Journal, http://www.madison.com/wsj