Trial Starts in Milwaukee Police Shooting That Led to Violence

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Former Milwaukee police officer Dominque Heaggan-Brown acted in self-defense when he fatally shot Sylville Smith at the end of a 12-second foot chase, his attorney told a jury yesterday, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “These are literally split-second decisions,” Jonathan Smith said during opening statements in Heaggan-Brown’s trial on charges of first-degree reckless homicide. District Attorney John Chisholm conceded that Heaggan-Brown’s first shot, which hit Smith as he was reaching for a gun he had just dropped, was justified.

Chisholm told jurors body camera video from both the defendant and another officer would show that a second, fatal shot to Smith’s chest — at point blank range when he was clearly unarmed and on his back — was not. “Anyone is entitled to self-defense,” even with deadly force, Chisholm said, but only if there’s a reasonable belief that such force is required to stop an imminent threat of death or serious injury. The Aug. 13 incident led to violent unrest in the city’s Sherman Park area last summer. Heaggan-Brown was charged in December, only the second Milwaukee police officer charged with an on-duty homicide in about 60 years. The trial is getting underway two days after another officer-involved shooting on Milwaukee’s lakefront Sunday night. Lawyers in the case warned jurors that they would have to view police body camera video of the fatal shooting.

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