MILWAUKEE — The death of 22-year-old Derek Williams, who died while in police custody in July 2011 has resulted in calls for change. The NAACP Milwaukee chapter and the attorney for Williams’ family are just a few of those calling for change — at the same time FOX6 News has learned some of the officers involved in the Williams case are connected to another high-profile investigation.
Williams died in July 2011 while in Milwaukee police custody. His death has sparked controversy after the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner amended his cause of death from Sickle cell trait (natural causes) to homicide (death at the hands of another).
Dashcam video shows Williams in the back of a squad car apparently struggling to breathe. That video has caused outrage among those concerned about civil rights violations. City leaders, faith leaders, attorneys representing Williams’ family and members of the public have called for an investigation into Williams’ death.
The Milwaukee County District Attorney is expected to name an independent prosecutor to head an inquest into the case any day now.
Now, there are concerns there is a more widespread disregard for civil rights.
In documents obtained by FOX6 News, two officers at the scene when Williams died — Jeffrey Cline and Gregory Kuspa — were also on the scene of another case being investigated through a John Doe probe. Cline and Kuspa were at the scene in another case, when at least one suspect was subject to an illegal cavity search by another officer.
An attorney in both the Williams case and the cavity search case is calling for an investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
“Considering all the issues concerning the department itself and I think, the deterioration of the trust of the department and the chief, it warrants and behooves the Department of Justice to review the department as a whole in regards to whether there has been and continues to be a pattern and practice of civil rights violations that have been continuing and may be continuing to this day,” Attorney Jonathan Safran said.
The Milwaukee NAACP chapter is calling for a restructuring of the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission to focus on citizen input. The restructuring would include strengthening of the Civil Equal Rights Commission, re-establishing the County Human Rights Commission and creating a State Office of Human Rights to hear citizen civil rights complaints.
In an interview with FOX6 News last week, Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn said his department did make an error in not getting Williams help quickly enough. However, Chief Flynn said Williams’ death was not intentional.
“As tragic as this death was, the individual involved had just been in a foot pursuit, climbed a fence, lost his shirt, stuck on the fence, hidden from the police, been captured by the police, briefly struggled, and handcuffed. Doesn’t mean we don’t take responsibility for not reacting more rapidly to his medical crisis,” Chief Flynn said.
Milwaukee lawmakers have called for a federal investigation into Williams’ death.
Last week, Milwaukee County’s Medical Examiner was grilled by Milwaukee’s Common Council, after changing Williams’ official cause of death from natural causes to homicide.
Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn and Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm have called for an inquest into Williams’ death. The two announced they are seeking an independent prosecutor to allow a public airing of the facts in this case. Chief Flynn has pledged complete cooperation with the inquest.
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