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Christopher Manney takes the stand in appeal hearing: “I want to return to duty. It’s who I am. I’m a cop”

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- On Sunday afternoon, March 22nd, on day four of his appeal hearing, former Milwaukee Police Officer Christopher Manney took the witness stand. Manney was first questioned by his attorney, Jonathan Cermele. Manney recounted his version of what happened on April 30th, 2014 -- the day he shot and killed 31-year-old Dontre Hamilton in Red Arrow Park.

manney

"He was lying on cement. He was completely flat on his back. His palms were up. His left leg though was up and twitching," Manney said, describing his first encounter with Dontre Hamilton.

It was the first time we heard from Christopher Manney -- 11 months after the fatal officer-involved shooting. He is fighting to get his job back.

"I knew this would be a life-affecting type thing," Manney said of the shooting incident.

Manney says he saw a bulge in Dontre Hamilton's right pocket. He apparently feared Hamilton might have a weapon.

"In my mind, that would be a good place the weapon was," Manney said.

Manney was also questioned by Chief Flynn's attorney, Mark Thomsen. Thomsen argued Manney didn't have reasonable suspicion to pat down Dontre Hamilton prior to the shooting.

"We`re here because your rule violations, in part, resulted in the death of Mr. Hamilton. Correct? The alleged rule violations," Thomsen said.

Thomsen pointed out inconsistencies -- saying it wasn't until much later that Manney told investigators he felt fearful of Hamilton.

"We've just been through this report. You've read it. There's no mention of any concern of yours of a bulge in the right pocket?" Thomsen said.

"Sir, this report is not my statements," Manney said.

Thomsen began his questioning by asking Manney whether he is ready and able to return to duty as a Milwaukee police officer.

"No, sir. I want to return to duty. I want to return. It's who I am. I'm a cop. The doctors, they say I can't. But that doesn't hide the fact that I was wrongfully terminated, and I want to be a cop. It's who I am," Manney said.

Manney became emotional as the questioning continued.

The first witness on the stand Sunday was Green Bay Police Officer Mike Knetzger -- who discussed CIT, or Crisis Intervention Training.

On Saturday, after seven hours of testimony, Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn took the stand. He explained in detail why he fired Manney.

Manney was terminated from MPD for performing a pat down leading up to the deadly shooting of Dontre Hamilton. Manney's lawyer argues Hamilton had no right to sleep in the park in the first place because it is against city ordinance.

Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn

Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn

On the witness stand Saturday, Flynn indicated Manney violated the MPD core value of competence. He said there was a tragic outcome that could have been avoided if Manney had followed his training.

"He violated our core value of competence and he did so in a way that unfortunately and tragically resulted in him having to use deadly force to protect himself," Flynn said.

While Flynn was on the stand, Manney sat just feet away from his former boss.

"He did not indicate any objective reason, based on his observations, for wanting to pat down Mr. Hamilton except for the fact that he thought he was homeless. But there is nothing in that report to indicate that he thought that Mr. Hamilton was committing a crime; that Mr. Hamilton was in fact personally in possession of a weapon. He was not investigating a crime. There were no suspicions being attached to Mr. Hamilton's behavior. But rather, in his initial response to charges, it was simply that he appeared to be a homeless man and they often carry knives," Flynn said.

During cross-examination, Manney's lawyer argued his client wanted to help Dontre Hamilton.

"If you approach somebody who was lying motionless on the ground with their leg twitching and then all of a sudden opened their eyes and it was a strange facial expression, you might be concerned about the subject's medical condition?" said Christopher Manney's lawyer Jonathan Cermele.

But Chief Flynn says Manney didn't have that concern.

"It's a tragic outcome, but one that could've been avoided if he had done, if he had in fact followed training," Flynn said.

Testimony in the Manney appeal got underway on Thursday evening.

A session on Monday will be held at a new location. Instead of the Municipal Court building, Monday's session will be held at Centennial Hall in the main branch of the Milwaukee Public Library.

A panel of three Fire and Police Commissioners will ultimately make the decision as to whether Christopher Manney should get his job back.

Phase one of the hearing is focusing on whether Manney violated police policy with his search of Hamilton. If the panel says “yes,” the hearing will go to the next phase. Phase two will determine whether Manney’s punishment (his termination from MPD) was appropriate.

In December, Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm announced Manney wouldn't face criminal charges in this case.

24 comments

  • s holmes

    What dontre deserved was help for his mental illness. This oversight was not on the cop doing his job, he didn’t owe dontre his life or even serious injury. We will go through this a couple of more times before we get back to what MLK wanted….equality.

    • J Stugis

      Well he did go to Milwaukee County Mental Heath numerous times, it’s a revolving door there no one ever truly gets the help they need black, white, yellow, or whatever color you want to name. Has anyone mentioned the number of times Hamilton attempted suicide in the past? Look at the autopsy report, scars on his neck from attempting to stab himself to death the other year. Hamilton had issues like hundreds of others in this city and county but no real help to be given.

      • s holmes

        Makes you wonder where the “black lives matter” folks are (before) they are shot. I guess its a lot easier & cheaper to complain after they are shot.

    • Choices

      If the Hamilton family would have used a fraction of the time they have spent protesting the police, and instead used that time getting mental health assistance for Dontre, none of this probably would have happened.

      • Ruth A

        Often families try…the mentally ill cannot always overcome their illness. As a society, we do a very poor job of diagnosing mental illness and treating it as successfully as we do cancer, diabetes, heart disease and many other illnesses. We do a particularly poor job for the poor…lack of ability to pay for care; and lack of families and the general public understanding mental illness and how difficult it can be to treat. It is a chronic illness, not a character flaw or a one size fits all treatment. The Hamilton family has explained the extensive and numerous times Dontre was treated. Sometimes patients stop taking their medication because of side effects, or because they think they’ve been “cured” and themselves don’t understand that medication is part of maintaining and managing their illness even when “symptoms” seem to be gone or in remission.

  • richard cranium

    the instant he grabbed manney’s baton he was no longer ‘unarmed’.
    here’s an idea: go up to a black cop and grab his baton and start clubbing him with it. let us know what happens.

    • Ruth A

      It would work the same way. In fact, the same issues would be of concern if an Asian officer shot a Hispanic officer. Look what happened in New York. Bully white cops choked a black man who was stopped for petty crime from the day before, a black man executed an Asian and a Hispanic officer because he was mad about the death of a black man…and he was mentally ill, not related or killing because of race.
      These police killings of citizens is really not about race, it is about poor policing, inadequate training, and sometimes attitudes of some police officers. We should all be warned and concerned about the incidents whether we are black, white, yellow or red…we could all be victims when poor judgment, or unnecessary force or gun is used by an officer.

      • Kirk V

        No Ruth. It is about a certain demographic not respecting the badge and thinking that they can disobey commands given and that they can do whatever they want. A cop says hands up, you put your hands up! A cop says stop of get down, you stop or get down! You don’t question him. You don’t play the thug game. You don’t try to be Mr. Tough Guy. THAT is why these idiots are getting shot. Not because of poor policing.

      • Ruth A

        Kirk, have you considered that it is just the opposite…i.e., that it is a certain demographic of officers with guns not respecting a certain demographic of citizen…the homeless, mentally ill, or people of color who are not actually committing a serious crime when they confront them…like a person of color peacefully sleeping on a bench and looking confused and disheveled. Or, a man of color who sold cigarettes (a misdemeanor) the days before. Or, a young man of color who stole a pack of cigar/cigarettes and punched the store owner a misdemeanor and public disturbance if charged at all for a white teenager in a largely white suburb or small, rural town. Such an incident would easily be dismissed as a teenage mistake punished with community service or overnight detention or house curfew for a few weeks. It would not be punished as by a thug police officer who played tough guy because a citizen was running away with no weapon, or even mouthing off to him. It is not punishable by death simply because someone is of a certain demographic often targeted by police as a more criminal element than another…same as your inaccurate perception. Community based policing would have officers better knowing the minor offenders troublemakers in the neighborhood, the neighborhood drunk, neighborhood mentally ill, or the town homeless…who should be approached differently…and who do not pose a fatal threat to police officers.

  • Ruth A

    I agree with the chief. The officer did a very poor job of putting the situation in the proper context. An armed police officer should never have reason to fear a citizen that has no weapon in hand upon being approached and who is not combative initially; particularly when responding to a call to check on the personal welfare of someone. There was no indication that the citizen was causing harm to any person or property. It was obvious the citizen was disoriented, NOT dangerous. An officer has the responsibility to make a better decision than Manney did that day.
    I will add that perhaps if police wore bullet proof vests and maybe bullet proof pads near major arteries in the arm, neck and legs, and helmuts when approaching what they perceive is a life threatening situation, there would be less need to shoot citizens who are not in the process of committing a life threatening crime. Military troops suit up that way everyday and carry out their duties even in the heat of a day’s work in the desert. And perhaps, officers should be better trained to “stand down” and call for backup if they feel threatened. Unless there is an immediate threat from a suspect to another citizen or property, an officer should pause, surveil and follow rather than engage a suspect citizen. Perpetrators of major crimes such as armed robbery, murder and drive by shootings are often not apprehended until hours, days or weeks later. Certainly more minor incidents can be handled the same way when an officer is alone and feels threatened. And it would help if officers’ guns were not of a type that so rapidly fire multiple shots…that alone could save lives.

  • Travler

    It was a sad situation all the way around, for the officer and the family with a disabled child. When an officer who approaches someone who seems to be out of the norm as anyone else their guard goes up and one becomes cautious. I feel that this officer was concerned for his safety and wanted to make sure that this individual who was acting strangely will not harm him when he received the call from Starbucks. So if someone was laying on your front lawn would you approach that person? No you call the police and I’m sure the responding officer would have patted them down as well to insure their safety and of the home owners and neighbors. Chief Flinn just tried to dodge a bullet and appease pressure from these demonstrators what a shame and what a coward Flinn has been regarding his cops, he leaves them out to dry, what a disgrace.

    • Ruth A

      Consider whether you want to live in a police or military state…such as what was Soviet Russia where “law enforcers” and “government” can never be questioned…where those with guns rule. Police are people with guns. They are good and bad people. Right and wrong people. People who make mistakes. Their mistakes cost other people (citizens) their lives. Police have to be as accountable for their behavior and decisions as do law abiding citizens.

      If you were drunk, or visiting our country and didn’t understand English well…and didn’t comply with the officer, would you want to pay with your life? Even a citizen that makes a mistake…or attempts to protect themselves from police should not have to pay by death at the hands of an officer.

      The epidemic of mental illness in our country also makes it very evident that police frequently deal with the mentally ill…they are adequately trained to do so….to treat them as other than a criminal if they are not armed. An officer has training that enables him to understand how not to provoke a mentally ill person into feeling threatened and grabbing his club or gun.

      Manney used poor judgment rather than using his training. Period.

      • NH

        So the officer should’ve let Hamilton beat him to death? Why don’t you ask to do a ride along in the 5th district?

  • Ruth A

    Dontre did not “thug out.” He was mentally ill and probably afraid and felt threatened by Manney. That is often the case with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and other biochemical imbalances in the brain. Something a well trained officer knows and would handle better than Manney did.

    • NH

      Well Ruth, the officer should’ve assessed Hamilton in a whole 5 seconds prior to the fight. You are either ignorant or you are just trying to rile people.

      • Ruth A

        He had more than five seconds…he had already spoken to him, and patted him down. Obviously, he missed that the bulge he feared as a weapon in Dontre’s pocket was not a weapon in the pat down…which by the way, was illegal procedure for the circumstance…just as the Chief and the evidence/testimony/statement of Manney. Dontre didn’t take Manney’s club until he felt threatened…and probably confused (in his mentally ill state) and in fear. Manney’s action are what created the tension and physical confrontation…totally unnecessary in the circumstance for which Manney was called to the scene.
        You give the benefit of the doubt to all officers and you doubt every citizen in the 5th district. I respect police. I respect that it is a dangerous job…particularly in some parts of cities everywhere. But not all officers are unbiased people, or make good judgments, or have their own issues being a thug and Tough Guy. Some are overly aggressive and even frame people for crimes they don’t commit.

        You should read more news about excessive police force and error in dealing with all demographics of citizens. You will see that there are some poor performance cops, bribe accepting cops, racist cops, and cops who think themselves above the law. I’m not saying that is Manney. But unless

      • Ruth A

        but unless poor performing police are made accountable for their actions, we all have something to fear….more of the same incidents. Don’t give a pass to all police just because they wear a uniform, carry a gun, and do a dangerous job. They are not all faultless. Some people simply don’t do their job well…get performance reviews that get them fired, retrained, or moved to a different job, or told to get a new job somewhere else in a different line of work. It happens everyday around the world in every workplace. This is no different. Quality of a business, service, and a police force depends on good performance of its employees. Manney is an employee of the City and the citizens

  • Kirk V

    I would be all for giving this guy his job back as I think he did nothing wrong. But, I ALSO think that hearing the doctor reports saying that he in unfit for duty would simply make him a lifetime disability check very quickly.

  • Nd man

    Chris is mental, takes after his mother who is a real head case! And his sister Caroline Lorenz is a lying trouble maker with serious mental problems!

  • Belinda Rhoten

    I have read several articles and am wondering how the officer was to know that Dontre had a mental illness. Did he have a sign on his chest that let the officer know that any odd behavior was due to this illness or are we now to expect officers to be mind readers??

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