MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm and Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn are seeking an independent prosecutor to handle an inquest into the death of 22-year-old Derek Williams.
The revisiting of this case comes amidst intense pressure from lawyers and the media, along with new information and public outrage.
In July 2011, Milwaukee police say they chased Williams, who was wearing a mask, near Center and Holton. The officers took him into custody and placed him inside their squad car. That’s when police say Williams passed out in the back seat, and was not breathing.
Dashcam video shows Williams apparently struggling to breathe while under arrest for robbery. Not long after this, Williams was pronounced dead. Officers attempted to revive Williams, but were unsuccessful.
The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner initially ruled Williams’ death was caused by Sickle Cell trait. However, the Medical Examiner recently reclassified Williams’ death as a homicide, meaning Williams’ death was caused by another person — not necessarily that there was criminal wrongdoing.
The officers that took part in the arrest have not been charged in connection with the death.
Robin Shellow, the attorney for Williams’ mother and the attorney representing the mother of Williams’ children are calling for action. Shellow is even calling for people to lose their jobs, or worse, due to their role in Williams’ death.
Moments after a news conference during which District Attorney Chisholm and Chief Flynn announced the inquest into Williams’ death, Shellow told FOX6 News she believes Chief Flynn should bear much of the responsibility.
“It is time for Flynn to go. Heads have to roll. He’s the first that has to go. The next that has to go is a member of the District Attorney’s Office who lied to myself, who lied to co-counsel Mr. Safran, who lied to attorney Mark Williams, who lied to the family,” Shellow said.
Jonathan Safran, the attorney for Williams’ girlfriend who is also the mother of his children also believes the police are at fault in this case.
Shellow even goes as far as to call the incident a cover up.
“There was a conspiracy to obstruct justice here and it was a conspiracy that contained a member of the District Attorney’s Office, the Chief of Police, as well as the Medical Examiner,” Shellow said.
The conspiracy accusation comes as the Medical Examiner claims to have never seen the dashcam video of Williams following his arrest. Shellow vehemently argues that contention.
“I was sitting across the table from (the Medical Examiner) when he saw it, and so was Deputy D.A. Kent Lovern, and so was the family of Derek Williams, and so was Mr. Attorney Jon Safran. Not only is there evidence, we were there,” Shellow said.
Shellow says Williams’ case is very similar to a case in 1981 when Ernest Lacy died in police custody with a broken bone in his neck. After an inquest, Lacy’s death was found to be a homicide.
Safran says if the U.S. Attorney gets involved, it will most likely be after the local inquest takes place.