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Two officers granted immunity for testimony in Williams inquest

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Two Milwaukee police officers who refused to testify during the Derek Williams inquest based on their 5th Amendment rights were granted immunity from prosecution on Monday, February 18th. Officer Patrick Coe and Sergeant Richard Theil are expected to testify in the Williams inquest on Tuesday, February 19th about what happened when they were involved in Williams' arrest.

22-year-old Williams died in the backseat of a squad car in July 2011 after he was picked up by Milwaukee police officers following a foot chase — suspected of an attempted robbery. Williams’ death was captured on a squad camera as he struggled to breathe for nearly 15 minutes without help.

Medical Examiner’s report originally indicated Williams’ cause of death as complications due to Sickle cell trait — but that report was amended, and the cause of death changed to homicide (death at the hands of another). MPD and the Milwaukee County District Attorney concluded the officers involved did not break any rules. However, the two did call for an inquest into the Williams’ case.

On Monday, the special prosecutor in the case questioned a homicide detective who investigated and interviewed the officers after Williams died.

Special prosecutor: Are you familiar with the charge failure to render aide to someone in custody?
Detective: Yes.
Special prosecutor: And is that a part of your investigation in seeing if they may have been in violation of that statute?
Detective: Correct.

Several local politicians also came to the courthouse on Monday to watch the inquest firsthand.

"I think more than anything just wanting to be in the room to get a feel for how the case is being handled," said St. Sen. Lena Taylor of Milwaukee.

"What I'm paying attention to is, I think this is further proof that we need an independent third party to really police the police," said Milwaukee County Supervisor David Bowen.

"Definitely what happens in this inquest will have an impact on this community," said Milwaukee Alderwoman Milele Coggs.

The closing statements in the Williams inquest are expected to happen on Tuesday or Wednesday. After the closing statements are made, the inquest jury will deliberate and then issue an advisory verdict on whether anyone was at fault for Williams' death.

CLICK HERE to read more about the Derek Williams case