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Hearing on reinstating fired Milwaukee officer begins

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A Milwaukee police officer testifies that he and another officer were the first to encounter Dontre Hamilton during the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission hearing Thursday in Milwaukee. Officer Christopher Manney is trying to convince the city’s police commissioners to reinstate him. Manney was fired from the department after shooting Hamilton 14 times in April 2014. (AP Photo/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Rick Wood)

MILWAUKEE (AP) — An attorney for a former Milwaukee police officer who was fired after he killed a mentally ill man has begun trying to persuade the city’s police commissioners to reinstate the officer.

A three-commissioner panel held its first hearing Thursday on whether to give Christopher Manney his job back. Manney shot 31-year-old Dontre Hamilton during a scuffle in a downtown park in April. Manney, who is white, was responding to a call that Hamilton, who is black, was sleeping illegally in the park.

Chief Ed Flynn fired Manney in October, saying Manney improperly decided to frisk Hamilton. Prosecutors concluded in December that Manney shot Hamilton in self-defense, sparking days of peaceful protests led by Hamilton’s family.

Manney sat quietly Thursday at a table in a dark suit and a tie. The room was full of people, including members of Hamilton’s family.

Mark Thomsen, an attorney representing the police department, said during his opening statements that officers are allowed to frisk people only if they reasonably suspect a person has weapons and poses a threat. Manney never explained why he thought Hamilton was armed beyond citing a general belief that homeless people and mentally ill people typically carry knives.

Manney’s attorney, Jonathan Cermele, argued that Manney did have a particular suspicion that Hamilton was armed. He said after Hamilton stood up to speak with him, Hamilton raised his arms as if he expected to be frisked, making Manney think that perhaps Hamilton was more dangerous than he appeared.

Manney then noticed bulges in Hamilton’s clothing, specifically in his right pants pocket, Cermele said. Cermele noted, too, that Manney never got a chance to actually frisk Hamilton before the fight began.

The hearing will continue Friday evening, Saturday and Monday evening, if needed, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

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