By TODD RICHMOND
MILWAUKEE (AP) — A former Milwaukee police officer accused of fatally shooting a black man during a traffic stop waived his right to a preliminary hearing Friday, erasing a chance for the public to see body camera footage of the incident.
Dominique Heaggan-Brown’s attorney, Steven Kohn, waived the hearing and entered a not guilty plea to the charge of felony reckless homicide for his client. Court Commissioner Barry Phillips ordered Heaggan-Brown to go to trial during the proceeding, which lasted less than five minutes.
Heaggan-Brown was charged last week in connection with 23-year-old Sylville Smith’s death in August. The criminal complaint, which alleges Heaggan-Brown fired the fatal shot even though Smith was unarmed, is based largely on footage from body cameras that Heaggan-Brown and his partner were wearing during the incident.
District Attorney John Chisholm has refused to release the footage publicly, calling it evidence. Outside court Friday, Chisholm said he had been prepared to play the video during the hearing if it had happened as scheduled. Chisholm added that he handed the footage over to Kohn. The defense attorney said he would not show the video to The Associated Press, saying that would violate a court order.
The shooting sparked two nights of riots on Milwaukee’s predominantly black north side. Demonstrators burned six businesses and a squad car and threw rocks and bottles at police. One man was shot but survived.
According to the criminal complaint, Heaggan-Brown, who is also black, stopped Smith’s car on Aug. 13. Smith tried to run away, and Heaggan-Brown and his partner gave chase. The complaint says body camera footage showed Smith was carrying a gun in his hand as he ran.
Smith then fell to the ground, got up and raised his gun while facing Heaggan-Brown, according to the complaint. Heaggan-Brown fired and hit Smith in the arm, after which Smith then threw his gun over a fence. Heaggan-Brown told state agents the gun flew out of Smith’s hand, the complaint said.
Heaggan-Brown then shot Smith in the chest — both shots were fired within two seconds. Heaggan-Brown told agents he thought Smith was reaching for his waistband, although the video shows Smith reaching for his waistband after the second shot and that he was unarmed at that time, according to the documents.
Sedan Smith, Sylville Smith’s brother, said Friday that he wished Chisholm would have played the video.
“The public needs to see what type of police we have on the streets today,” Sedan Smith said. “(The second shot) wasn’t an act of fear. If it takes you time to again shoot someone … there’s a thought that goes into that. That’s premeditated. That’s execution.”
Heaggan-Brown was fired in October due to unrelated charges — including two counts of sexual assault and two counts of prostitution — in a case that’s still pending. According to court documents, Heaggan-Brown and another man went to a bar on Aug. 14 and watched television coverage of the unrest. The man alleged that Heaggan-Brown bragged that he could do anything he wanted without repercussions and he woke up to find Heaggan-Brown sexually assaulting him.