A year and a half after Derek Williams’ death in Milwaukee police custody, the justice system’s involvement in the case is just beginning, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. An inquest jury’s ruling Thursday that three police officers should be charged with misdemeanors in connection with Williams’ death marks the first formal decision in what could be a very long process.
Williams, 22, a robbery suspect, was arrested after running about 1½ blocks from police. He had been released from jail earlier in the day, where he had been held for unpaid tickets. He had no criminal record. A video shows that for nearly eight minutes, he struggled to breathe and begged for help from the back of a squad car while officers ignored his pleas. Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm named John Franke special prosecutor and sought the inquest after a Journal Sentinel investigation prompted the medical examiner’s office to change its ruling on the manner of death from natural to homicide. In forensic terms, homicide means “death at the hands of another” but does not necessarily mean a crime was committed.