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. This, after the Medical Examiner's report on Williams' death was amended and classified as a homicide.
Williams died while in police custody 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.
Sharday Rose, the mother of Williams' three children, says she always knew her best friend did not die a natural death. Rose told FOX6 News she is watching the developments in the case closely, but says dashcam video taken the night Williams died is something she can never watch again.
"I watched that tape one time, and I can't watch it again. It broke my heart so bad that they didn't help him at all -- didn't help him one bit. That broke my heart to see that -- to see him die in the back seat," Rose said.
Rose told FOX6 News she is glad Milwaukee's District Attorney is moving ahead with an inquest into Williams' death, but said she is angry with police.
"Give him some assistance. You all sat there like he wasn't in the back seat -- like you all didn't even hear him. Then, when he stopped responding, you turn around and yell his name. He was telling you all from the get go he couldn't breathe. You all should have gotten him assistance then. It shouldn't have taken you all that long. I am mad at them because they could have gave him help," Rose said.
Rose told FOX6 News she never believed the original Medical Examiner's report, saying Williams died of natural causes. The updated ruling of homicide, death at the hands of another may give Rose answers for her children.
"I try my best not to cry in front of my kids. I be holding it in all the time. I can't keep doing that because I miss him so much. It hurts me to know my kids don't have no father. It hurts me so bad," Rose said.
One of the lawyers involved in the case said Rose is the only individual with a personal case in the matter because of the three children.
Chief Flynn has endorsed the decision for an inquest. He says the independent prosecutor will allow a public airing of the facts in the case. Flynn pledged complete cooperation with the inquest.
Chief Flynn also pointed out that since the Williams case first came to light more than a year ago, MPD has convened a critical incident review board. It is not an investigatory body; rather a team of people who critically evaluate incidents and make recommendations in department policy.
"It's clear from (the dashcam) video we needed to review our training protocol and review our protocol for addressing handcuffed prisoners, and that is what we've undertaken to do. At the very least, we've identified a significant training gap that needed to be remedied," Chief Flynn said.
Chief Flynn says the officers involved have been taken off their patrol assignments while the investigation is ongoing.
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