MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- The Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office released a report on Monday morning, December 22nd that indicates former Milwaukee Police Officer Christopher Manney's "use of force" in the shooting death of 31-year-old Dontre Hamilton was "justified self-defense and that defense cannot be reasonably overcome to establish a basis to charge Officer Manney with a crime."
"The death of Dontre Hamilton is a tragedy to everyone involved. My decision is that charges will not be issued against Officer Manney," said Chisholm.
It is a decision that many, even the family of Dontre Hamilton, say they expected.
"I am deeply aware of the very real and serious reasons for concern that are not swayed by passion or judgment of making these decisions regardless of how popular or unpopular that decision is," said Chisholm.
Chishold sought advice from local and national use-of-force experts before bringing charges against Manney.
On April 30th, Hamilton was sleeping in Red Arrow Park. Then-Officer Christopher Manney was performing a welfare check, and police say Hamilton grabbed Manney’s baton and struck him with it. That’s when Christopher Manney opened fire, shooting Hamilton 14 times.
Manney has already been fired for action leading up to the shooting of Hamilton -- and he is appealing his termination.
The district attorney released a lengthy document detailing the accounts of several witnesses who describe the confrontation between Officer Manney and Dontre Hamilton, who had been sleeping in the park. One witness says the two struggled when Manney frisked Hamilton. Manney struck Hamilton with his baton. Hamilton grabbed the baton and struck the officer.
Another witness described Hamilton as holding the baton menacingly and seemed to be advancing on the officer as the officer yelled commands. Manney fired and Hamilton fell to the ground.
Chisholm says 13 to 14 shots were fired. To show how quickly that can happen, a video was shown with an officer using a gun like Manney's. 14 shots were discharged in 2.9 seconds.
"There is no standard that says an officer is required to stop and re-assess the situation after x amount of rounds," said Chisholm.
According to the autopsy report, the medical examiner's office found 11 bullets in Hamilton's body. His family's attorney said Monday they're equally concerned about abrasions and contusions on Hamilton's head and neck.
"That's the part we don't understand. There is the ability for someone to resist if there is unreasonable force addressed against them and that may have been what Dontre Hamilton was doing," said Jonathon Safran, Hamilton family attorney.
The Hamilton family also points to the fact two officers had previously checked on Hamilton that day and left him alone. They believe Manney was unjust trying to pat-down Hamilton in the first place. While that pat-down led to the decision to fire Manney, Chisholm says that doesn't change whether the shooting was in self-defense.
"My decision has nothing to do with the initial encounter with Mr. Hamilton, right or wrong. That's a decision that's been made by the police department, that's a decision that may be very well be the subject of civil litigation," said Chisholm.
FOX6 News has now learned the U.S. Department of Justice will open a civil rights investigation into the incident. We should note that even though the internal police review led to Manney firing, police also determined the shooting was justified -- it was the pat-down that breached protocol.
As for Officer Manney's statement to investigators, he says he felt he was out of options and drew his weapon hoping Hamilton would stop. Hamilton continued to advance toward him and Manney fired numerous times, but stopped when Hamilton was on the ground.
The district attorney says Manney is allowed to use force to stop the threat of death or great bodily harm. Chisholm says he knows some in the public will not like it.
"I'm never concerned for my safety. Like I said, I'm a volunteer. I believe strongly in the mission of the D.A.'s office. I believe in treating people fairly," said Chisholm.
In the report released Monday, Chisholm concluded the following:
"After reviewing all the evidence, I believe there can be little serious doubt that P.O. Manney was justified in firing at Dontre Hamilton, who was attacking him with a deadly weapon (baton). The more difficult issue is whether P.O. Manney fired more shots than necessary, or continued firing after he could reasonably perceive that Hamilton was clearly no longer a threat.
"It does not appear to me, based on all the evidence I have reviewed, that P.O. Manney continued firing after the point in time when a hypothetical “reasonable officer at the scene” under the totality of the circumstances existing in this case, would have stopped firing. The use of deadly force against Dontre Hamilton was not a choice P.O. Manney made voluntarily, but was instead a defensive action forced upon him by Dontre Hamilton’s deadly attack with a police baton.”
As part of the report released on Monday, District Attorney John Chisholm consulted with a national use of force expert, Emanuel Kapelsohn of the Peregrine Corporation. Kapelsohn was given access to all materials in this investigation -- concluded the following:
"After reviewing all the evidence, I believe there can be little serious doubt that P.O. Manney was justified in firing at Dontre Hamilton, who was attacking him with a deadly weapon (baton). The more difficult issue is whether P.O. Manney fired more shots than necessary, or continued firing after he could reasonably perceive that Hamilton was clearly no longer a threat. Police officers in Milwaukee and throughout the United States are trained to fire to “stop the threat”. The 13 or 14 shots fired by P.O. Manney would, in all likelihood, have been fired in roughly 3 to 4 seconds total elapsed time, from first shot to last. The wound locations and wound paths through the deceased’s body are consistent with shots fired at an attacker who is first advancing toward the officer, then turning and falling. While, as can be expected, the many witnesses to this event give varying accounts of what they saw and heard, several witnesses with the best, closest views of what occurred have stated that P.O. Manney stopped firing when Hamilton fell to the ground, and Manney did not continue firing after that point. This is consistent with P.O. Manney’s own statement of what occurred. I find no physical evidence to prove otherwise, including information from the autopsy report, as confirmed by my own meeting and discussions with the doctor who performed the autopsy. Reaction time is needed to for an officer to stop firing a rapid series of shots when the officer perceives that an attacker has been “stopped” and then is falling. It does not appear to me, based on all the evidence I have reviewed, that P.O. Manney continued firing after the point in time when a hypothetical “reasonable officer at the scene” under the totality of the circumstances existing in this case, would have stopped firing. The use of deadly force against Dontre Hamilton was not a choice P.O. Manney made voluntarily, but was instead a defensive action forced upon him by Dontre Hamilton’s deadly attack with a police baton.”
Manney's statement is included in the report released by the Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office. In the statement, he says the following:
"As he attempted to place his hands on Hamilton, Hamilton trapped Manney’s hands between his arms and body. Mr. Hamilton then twisted away from Manney so that he directly faced Manney and had his right hand balled in a fist. Officer Manney states that he tried to disengage and told Hamilton it was not worth it. At that point, Hamilton lunged at him and tried to strike him with a fist. Officer Manney blocked the punch and struck Hamilton with an open palm to the chin. This had no immediate effect on Hamilton. Hamilton then grabbed Manney in the shoulder area, pulled him towards him and struck him (Manney) in the right head area. Manney felt he was losing control and decided to escalate to his intermediate weapon, a wooden baton. Manney indicates that he chose the baton and not his OC spray because the OC spray was located on the right side of his belt and he was using his right arm to protect himself from strikes. While doing so he was issuing commands to Hamilton to stop resisting. Manney separated from Hamilton, removed his baton with his left hand and transferred it to his right hand. When Hamilton continued to be aggressive, Manney struck him once in the rib area with the baton. Manney states that Hamilton trapped his baton between his arms and his torso and spun away from Manney. Manney attempted to retain control of his baton but could not. Manney then attempted to disengage with Hamilton and attempted to hit the emergency button on his radio but could not because of the on-going struggle. Manney states that he felt he was out of options and that he had to escalate to drawing his weapon in the hope that Hamilton would stop. Manney states that he pushed away from Hamilton and was trying to draw his weapon when he felt a baton blow from Hamilton to his right neck area. Hamilton continued to advance on Manney, and Manney pushed away from Hamilton with his left arm and pointed his firearm with one hand at Hamilton’s chest area. As Hamilton continued to approach with Manney’s baton, and as Manney had his weapon drawn and pointed at Hamilton, Manney states that he feared Hamilton would attack him with the baton and that he “would be dead” as a result.
"Manney fired his weapon but it did not seem to have any effect on Hamilton, so he continued to fire while walking backwards from Hamilton. Hamilton fell forward and Manney continued to fire because he perceived Hamilton still to be a threat. He stopped firing when Hamilton was completely on the ground."
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