Former Milwaukee Police Officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown was found not guilty Wednesday in the shooting of Sylville Smith that set off two days of violent unrest last year, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The verdict drew an emotional reaction in the courtroom, prompting the judge to clear the jury from the courtroom as deputies escorted members of the gallery outside. Relatives of the dead man called for calm and for racial unity. “Don’t give them a reason to take your life,” said Smith’s sister, Sherelle Smith. “Try as hard as you can to be peaceful and form unity with each other… black or white.
Earlier Wednesday, Smith’s family filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Heaggan-Brown and the City of Milwaukee. The verdict was the latest of many acquittals in police shootings around the country. Many of the cases involved suspects with guns, video evidence, and split-second decisions about self-defense. “Self-defense cases can be very difficult, but it’s still our obligation to pursue those cases if we believe justice demands it,” District Attorney John Chisholm said after the verdict. “You cannot base your judgments on what the public sentiment is.”