“This fight is not over:” Sylville Smith’s family happy with decision to charge former officer who shot him

MILWAUKEE -- Former Milwaukee police officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown has been charged with first-degree reckless homicide in connection with the fatal shooting of Sylville Smith. Smith's death sparked days of unrest in Milwaukee's Sherman Park neighborhood in August. The attorney for the family of Sylville Smith, and some in the Sherman Park neighborhood called the decision to charge Heaggan-Brown a step in the right direction.

Smith's family said Thursday evening they are happy with the decision to charge Heaggan-Brown -- but they said this is only the beginning.

Smith's brother Sedan said Thursday "this fight is not over."

"That`s just the beginning of a long and victory-less fight," Sedan Smith said. "Why did this investigation take so long to conclude?"

Sedan Smith said he has not seen body camera footage from body cameras worn by Heaggan-Brown and a second officer on August 13th. Sedan said he did read the criminal complaint detailing what happened at 44th and Auer on that day.

"Just knowing that my brother was running and was shot at while he was running and then to be stood over and executed is unjust. There`s no other way to put it. You are sworn in to do a job that is to protect and serve and in no way was that protecting or serving the community," Sedan Smith said.

Smith's family said the district attorney's decision reaffirmed what they've believed all along.

"We knew Sylville wasn`t the type of person to point a gun at an officer," Sedan Smith said.

The family on Thursday called for the release of the body camera footage.

"That video needs to be public. The public needs to see this video," Thaddeaus Ashford, Smith's cousin said.

Some of the people FOX6 News spoke with on Thursday after the decision to charge Heaggan-Brown was announced said they want to see the body camera video for themselves.

At My Barber Shop near 47th and Burleigh Thursday, both the clients and those doing the clipping said body camera footage from the shooting should belong to the people.

"With the body cameras and everything, that will give everyone a chance and a fair shake," Dell Tatum said.

Dominique Heaggan-Brown

Dominique Heaggan-Brown

Officials with the Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office said it won't be released "while the prosecution is pending."

Tatum said Thursday he was feeling a sense of optimism, as he didn't think charges would be filed in this case.

"I feel kinda good since it gives people hope that they can't be treated and done any kind of way with no repercussions to anybody," Tatum said.

Tatum said he doesn't want to think about what might happen in and around Sherman Park if Heaggan-Brown is convicted.

"I don`t even want to speak that into existence but that would be ugly," Tatum said.

Sylville Smith

Sylville Smith

Shooting scene near 44th and Auer, Milwaukee

Shooting scene near 44th and Auer, Milwaukee

The attorney for Smith's family is based in Chicago. He said the decision to charge the former Milwaukee police officer sends a message that the Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office is willing to hold officers accountable for a bad decision.

David Owens

Sylville Smith

Sylville Smith

As for the body camera video, he said the decision to charge Heaggan-Brown means it does not need to be released immediately since the public will see the video during Heaggan-Brown's trial.

"There's a reason -- a legitimate reason to hold off on making it immediately public. This is bad. It's horrible. But that's why he's being charged with homicide. What`s important is justice -- and not just seeing the tape because you wanted to see the tape," David Owens said.

The attorney said his message to those living in the Sherman Park neighborhood is that they should follow the trial closely. He also asked that people be patient, as there figures to be numerous hearings along the way.

Heaggan-Brown was charged on Thursday with one count of first-degree reckless homicide -- a charge which comes with a maximum sentence of 60 years in prison.

Dominique Heaggan-Brown

Dominique Heaggan-Brown

Heaggan-Brown is set to make his initial appearance in court in this case on Friday, December 16th.

Heaggan-Brown's attorney, Steven Kohn said he expects this case to go to trial and that his client will ultimately be acquitted.

Kohn added he has not seen the body camera footage, but said he believes it will help the defense.

"I am assuming it is going to help. He shot an armed man, according to the criminal complaint. I think that when this matter is tried in a courtroom, it is our expectation that this young man is going to be found not guilty," Kohn said.

Kohn also said he hopes the public will remain open-minded until this case is resolved.

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