Former police officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown charged after fatal shooting of Sylville Smith

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.

Dominique Heaggan-Brown

Dominique Heaggan-Brown

Heaggan-Brown was charged on Thursday, December 15th with one count of first-degree reckless homicide -- a charge which comes with a maximum sentence of 60 years in prison. Heaggan-Brown will make his initial appearance in court on this charge on Friday, December 16th.

According to the criminal complaint, Heaggan-Brown and another officer were in the neighborhood near 44th and Auer around 3:45 p.m. on Saturday, August 13th. The complaint indicates "two male subjects fled from a vehicle and were pursued" by the officers. One individual, Smith, "was armed with a semi-automatic pistol and was subsequently shot two times by P.O. Heaggan-Brown." Smith later died from his injuries.

Sylville SmithThe complaint says both Heaggan-Brown and the second officer were wearing body cameras during this incident. A review of the body camera footage from both officers shows they pursued Smith on foot. According to the complaint, the "video shows Smith slip to the ground as he approaches a chain link fence between two houses. The video shows Smith rise back to his feet with the gun still in his right hand and Smith turns his head and upper body towards the officers. He then raises the gun upward while looking in the direction of the officers and throws the gun over the fence into the yard."

Shooting scene near 44th and Auer, Milwaukee

Shooting scene near 44th and Auer, Milwaukee

The complaint goes on to say, "while Smith raises his gun upward, P.O. Heaggan-Brown discharges one shot from his service weapon at Smith and Smith falls to the ground on his back." After going to the ground, Smith was unarmed.

"...at the time of the second shot, Smith was unarmed..."According to the criminal complaint, the body camera video "shows Smith falls to his back, with his legs and arms going up towards his head in what appears to be a half backwards roll. P.O. Heaggan-Brown is observed standing a short distance from Smith with his weapon pointed down at Smith when Heaggan-Brown discharges a second shot from his weapon at what appears to be Smith's chest."

A review of the body camera video "confirms that at the time of the second shot, Smith was unarmed and had his hands near his head."

Dominique Heaggan-Brown

Dominique Heaggan-Brown

The complaint says the "elapsed time between the discharge of the first shot and the second shot by P.O. Heaggan-Brown was determined to be 1.69 seconds."

"...at no time after the shooting did Heaggan-Brown or any other officer search Smith for a second firearm.”Heaggan-Brown was interviewed regarding the incident with Smith. The complaint says Heaggan-Brown says he "fired once at which time he observed the pistol fly out of Smith's hands and over the fence into the backyard of the residence. Smith then fell to the ground and Heaggan-Brown believed he was reaching for his waist so he discharged his weapon a second time." A review of the body camera footage "shows that at no time after the shooting did Heaggan-Brown or any other officer search Smith for a second firearm."

44th and Auer

Sylville Smith

Sylville Smith

The family of Sylville Smith issued the following statement in light of the charge filed:

"We appreciate that the District Attorney has shown independence and sound judgment in prosecuting the officer who shot and killed Sylville. We also appreciate that this is but the first step in holding that officer accountable, but a necessary step in bringing some measure of justice.

"We always believed that Sylville should be alive today, and that this rogue officer was completely wrong. Though the decision to prosecute cannot bring back Sylville, justice is needed for our family as we continue to move through deep grief and seek justice for his wrongful death."

Gov. Scott Walker issued the following statement on this case:

"I’m not going to prejudge him until he goes through the legal process and we see, ultimately, what a jury or court decides. Again, I think overwhelmingly, I want to make it clear, overwhelmingly, law enforcement in this state does a tremendous job under difficult circumstances, but if people are violating the law, not matter if they’re in law enforcement or not, they should be held accountable."

Senator Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) issued this statement:

“My prayers go out to Mr. Smith’s son, mother, father, siblings and supporters who have had to endure the consequences of this horrific tragedy. Clearly the actions after Mr. Smith’s death were based in people being sick and tired of being sick and tired of a lack of justice as the status quo. Today’s charging decision affords the opportunity to rebuild trust that no one is above the law, not even those who take an oath to protect and serve.”

Rep. David Bowen (D-Milwaukee) issued this statement:

"Today's announcement that charges have been brought on Sylville Smith's shooter is an important step toward justice for Sylville, his family and friends, and a community that mourns his death. Nothing the legal system does could end the grief of those who knew and loved Sylville, but it can bring the peace of mind of knowing that rogue police officers acting outside and above the law are subject to accountability.

The body camera evidence as detailed by the criminal complaint also shows that politician David Clarke is all talk when he says "police brutality doesn't exist." Shooting an unarmed person laying on his back in the chest is without question police brutality.

I am grateful for the national and local community organizations like Color of Change as well as the Smith family for their consistent and peaceful pursuit of justice for Sylville and other victims of police brutality. They should be very proud of their efforts to assert accountability for acts of injustice.

I encourage law enforcement and community leaders to come together to work with lawmakers to make changes to the justice system to ensure accountability for officers who act outside the law."

Milwaukee Alderman Khalif Rainey issued this statement:

"I welcome the news today that the District Attorney’s office has charged former Milwaukee police officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown with first-degree reckless homicide in the fatal on-duty shooting of Sylville Smith. But also, I cannot help but feel some hope that the wheels of justice might finally be grinding into action.

This is a significant step for the integrity of the justice system in a case that has caused great pain in the Sherman Park neighborhood, and has sent shockwaves throughout our city, state and nation. Through its independent investigation, the state’s Department of Justice has determined that Smith raised his gun and was tossing it away when Officer Heaggan-Brown opened fire on him. Acting on their findings, the District Attorney today announced the charges. I do not think that there can be any doubt that the District Attorney was right to do so.

My thoughts are with the Smith family today as their search for truth and rectitude continues. I hope that they find some comfort in the fact that their son’s killer is being prosecuted, and I hope as well that we learn many more of the answers to their questions.

We should strive for a world in which no one is above the justice system—especially those who take an oath to protect and serve their community. Today’s decision was a step in that direction, but there remains much work to do."

Milwaukee Alderman Russell Stamper II issued this statement:

"Given the new information about the police body camera footage of the shooting of Sylville Smith, I think there can be no question that the District Attorney’s office made the right call today in issuing charges against former police officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown.

After what our community went through in the aftermath of the shooting, I hope that this is a significant step in the healing process for many. For Mr. Smith’s family especially, I hope they find some comfort in knowing that the justice system is pursuing exactly what the family has demanded since this all began—justice.

We must remain diligent in our efforts to seek justice, and the filing of these charges serves as only a starting point."

The district attorney said Thursday the body camera video from this incident is not being released until the case has concluded.

Dominique Heaggan-Brown

Dominique Heaggan-Brown

The Milwaukee Police Department terminated Dominique Heaggan-Brown’s employment effective October 31st.

The firing had nothing to do with the shooting of Sylville Smith.

According to MPD, the termination was the result of a Milwaukee Police Department Internal Affairs investigation related to the criminal complaint filed against him on October 20th -- accusing him of sexual assault.

The investigation found Heaggan-Brown to be in violation of the Milwaukee Police Code of Conduct, Core Value- Integrity that states:

“Department members shall obey local ordinances and state and federal laws, whether on or off-duty” and “whether on or off duty, department members shall not behave in such a way that a reasonable person would expect that discredit could be brought upon the department, or that it would create the appearance of impropriety or corruptive behavior," according to a statement from MPD officials.

He's facing the following criminal charges in that sexual assault case:

Dominique Heaggan-Brown

Dominique Heaggan-Brown

  • Second degree sexual assault (two counts)
  • Prostitution (two counts)
  • Capture an intimate representation without consent

According to a criminal complaint, on August 15th, two days after the shooting of Sylville Smith, a victim reported to Milwaukee police he had been sexually assaulted by Heaggan-Brown while off-duty. An investigation, conducted by MPD's Internal Affairs Division and Sensitive Crimes Division, resulted in the criminal complaint filed by the Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office. MPD's investigation revealed additional allegations, resulting in added charges.

The criminal complaint filed against Heaggan-Brown on October 20th indicates there were four victims in all. The incidents described in the complaint happened in December 2015, July 2016 and August 2016.

In the most recent alleged crime, Heaggan-Brown apparently dropped an adult victim off at St. Joseph's Hospital on August 15th. Heaggan-Brown told hospital workers the victim was "completely out, zonked out of his gourd." While nurses were giving aid to the victim, the complaint indicates the victim "flipped out. 'Help me, help me, he was touching me,' exclaimed (the victim)."

The complaint indicates that further investigation showed that this most recent victim and Heaggan-Brown first met when the victim "was looking for another musician" to help with his music. "As a rapper, the defendant thought he could assist (the victim)," the complaint says.

On August 14th, Heaggan-Brown and the victim went to a bar. They "sat and watched television, as coverage of the Sherman Park protests aired." The victim told police he "had difficulty remembering what transpired after (the victim) left the bar with the defendant." He did recall waking up to the defendant attempting inappropriate sexual acts on him. The victim also told police he "felt drugged."

On August 15th, after Heaggan-Brown took that victim to the hospital, the complaint indicates he reached out to a City of Milwaukee police sergeant -- a mentor of his. A text message from Heaggan-Brown to the sergeant reads as follows:

"Not so good got a separate situation. Need your help big time...But need to handle this the most secret and right way possible."

After an interview with investigators, police went through Heaggan-Brown's phone. They found messages with two other individuals who told police Heaggan-Brown offered them money for sex. One said it happened on eight or nine separate occasions -- the other three of four different times.

Heaggan-Brown was initially suspended from the Milwaukee Police Department. He was later terminated.

He was first appointed to MPD as a police aide in 2010, and became a probationary police officer in 2013.

Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn had this to say when sexual assault charges were filed against Heaggan-Brown:

"These are grave charges, these are charges that go to the heart of our conduct of conduct of our oath to protect and serve. The issue surrounding the shooting (of Sylville Smith) is gonna have to be decided on the lawfulness of the shooting, and the context of the events in which it occurred -- not the character of the individual who did the shooting."

Officials with the Milwaukee Fire Department said $5.8 million worth of damage was done to businesses during the unrest on August 13th and 14th in the Sherman Park neighborhood on the heels of the fatal shooting of Sylville Smith.

"It's 5.8 million -- and that's a rough estimate," MFD Battalion Chief Aaron Lipski said.

Lipski said that dollar amount includes both damage to structures and contents at these locations:

  • BP Gas Station, 3114 N. Sherman Blvd.
  • O’Reilly Auto Parts, 3405 W. Fond du Lac Ave.
  • BMO Harris Bank, 3536 W. Fond du Lac Ave.
  • Jet Beauty Supply, 3501 W. Burleigh St.
  • PJ’s Supermarket, 3079 N. 21st St.
  • MJM Liquor Store, 2229 W. Fond du Lac Ave.
  • A to Z Wholesale Liquor, 2233 W. Fond du Lac Ave.
  • Big Jim’s Liquor, 2161 W. Hopkins St.
O'Reilly Auto Parts

O'Reilly Auto Parts

O'Reilly Auto Parts, which was a total loss, suffered the most damage -- at $1.4 million.

Damage to the BP gas station at Sherman and Burleigh is estimated at $589,000.

unrest in MKE

What remains after unrest near Sherman & Auer in Milwaukee

What remains after unrest near Sherman & Auer in Milwaukee

What remains after unrest near Sherman & Auer in Milwaukee

What remains after unrest near Sherman & Auer in Milwaukee

What remains after unrest near Sherman & Auer in Milwaukee

What remains after unrest near Sherman & Auer in Milwaukee

Half of the Jet Beauty store was gone in the wake of the unrest. Damage is estimated at $800,000.

Jet Beauty

Damage to the BMO Harris Bank is estimated at more than $1.2 million.

BMO

Other businesses that were damaged include Big Jim's Liquor, PJ Supermarket and MJM Liquor.

Fire at liquor store near Fond du Lac & Meinecke

Fire at liquor store near Fond du Lac & Meinecke

Lipski said his crews responded to 89 reports of fires on August 13th. Some stemmed from the unrest, while others happened in different areas of the city. Lipski said the usual 212 firefighters working that shift were well-equipped to handle the high volume of calls, and he didn't have to call in any extra people.

"We respond to that area with a very specific set of protocols and we keep the rest of the city functioning as normal," Lipski said.

Unrest in Milwaukee

Unrest in Milwaukee

Monitor FOX6 News and FOX6Now.com for updates on this developing story.

26 comments

  • The truth

    Well the truth finally came out. Should never been a police officer in the first place. I know the family very messed up people except for the mom. Smh

  • Opinion8d

    Bad decision to charge. He’ll be exonerated in court for this. The good and bad of the body camera is that they can slow things down to make it appear that 100 different things could be analyzed and taken into account. However, most often the what the officer actually ‘sees’ and processes is different. Whether it’s the 1.69 seconds her or the 23 seconds of video in the Jay Anderson case, things happen and they happen fast. Point a gun at an officer and you’re likely to get killed. The problem is that the liberals will now say he didn’t point the gun so you shouldn’t shoot, or you should have seen his finger wasn’t on the trigger, etc. In court though, once the defense has the ability to explain how police are trained and why they do what they do, most reasonable jurors can understand.

  • Brian D

    You see BLM, the process vetts out the truth. You don’t have to run around screaming, yelling and looting like a bunch of uncivilized, tribal rebels burning down your own neighborhood to be heard. This isn’t Sierre Leone.

    • Obviously the white devils made me do it

      They, in fact, accomplish the exact OPPOSITE of what they are intending to accomplish. All the BLM looks like is a bunch of inbred, racist, uneducated terrorists. They obviously were only taking advantage of the “rage” of one of their own ghetto thugs getting shot to be able to loot stores and carry out their own “thug” intentions. And then they wonder why everyone who is white hates them with a passion and sees them for what they are… thug terrorists.

  • CYNIC

    Well, ok then. So one criminal POS dead, another criminal POS behind bars. I say job well done. The truth always comes out. Sometimes the body cams show blatant negligence like this. Sometimes they show a cop forced to make a lethal decision. Doesn’t matter what color anyone is good, bad, or ugly. This was not a good cop, and he is being punished. I saw comments earlier about white cops getting off. Well some times the truth is that they are innocent. But when they’re guilty they’re guilty. Truth doesn’t care how you feel, and justice in most cases is blind. So while this process was handled efficiently and honestly, the morons in the neighborhood decided rioting was the answer. Well guess what, the rioters only hurt themselves and did not in any way lead to this outcome.

  • Gary Hamilton

    Smith is a thug who pointed a gun at a cop and got what he deserved. The cop thinks he is above the law. Two scumbags are off the street. The far left judges will give Smiths family a huge settlement and our taxes will go up again. Once again us law abiding citizens will be the abused citizens!

  • Angry Blackman

    So the DA caves in to polictical pressure, and Heggan_Brown made himself an easy escape goat by his off duty actions. So they got the charges they wanted. Good luck getting a conviction. Any good lawyer which he has will bring every expert witness to explain what the mind goes through during a combat of stressful situation. There are sciences like the reactionary gap and delayed stress reactions that will make it hard for a jury of Smiths peers to convict him of this murder. So basically they really just signed a check for the family. So as stated in earlier comments , all you have to do is commit crimes in the city of Milwaukee and you win the “Ghetto Lottery” . You can run from from the police point a gun or transport drugs in your butt and the city will pay millions if the police get involved. The only numbers you need are 4,6,58 -news -and 12 or 50 as the hood like to refer Police as. .
    Look this was a bad criminal and an a Officer with bad character issues who met head on like two runaway trains. Oh by the way ” Dear black people from the inner city “If the police wanted us as black men or women dead, they would just simply stop patrolling our neighborhoods, because from what i see, they are in our communities and we are breaking records nation wide by killing ourselves.. I wonder why that is? Maybe they have the mindset of why should i risk my career, family privacy and freedom chasing down criminals in these neighborhoods, to only have my actions second guess in the press and in the courts.

    Message to my elected leaders who fight more for criminal then people who elected. How about fix other social issues like child support reform. So more black, white whatever race of fathers can miss work to see there sons or daughters and make an impact in there lives so the street don’t.

  • Huh !

    I haven’t seen the video, and even if I do, I couldn’t say what the cop was looking at. Body cams aren’t filling in that gray area for me …. The police should be wearing a head mounted camera to at least show where he was looking, not the direction his chest was facing like a body cam shows ! Have you ever looked around a room by moving your head and not moving the rest of your body ?

  • Eric R.

    1.69 seconds before a suspect who got shot and dropped his gun gets shot again? NOT GUILTY. You can take that verdict to the bank. I hope the idiots RIOT in Milwaukee and burn that crummy town to the ground. Hell, burn Tom Barrett alive as well. He’s useless.

  • MelissaK

    So, this POS thug had a gun, the officer shot twice within less than 2 seconds because this thug resisted, and….we also have that the cop is black! Oh lord. And now they want to charge the cop. I am glad I do not live in Milwaukee and I never will. The northside is a cesspool and the law enforcement is strictly about politics, not protecting the public. If I were a cop (which I would never be stupid enough to be), I would let the blacks police themselves. It would be like Vegas…whatever happens in the hood, STAYS IN THE HOOD! I would NOT risk my life or my freedom to protect animals and then have them turn on me.

  • Charles

    Seems like Police Officers are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.
    I’d be scared to be a cop right now! Jus sayn……
    REEEEESPECT TO ALL GOOD POLICE OFFICERS!!!!!
    Heaggan-Brown was a dirty cop!
    Condolences to the Smith family.

  • deletedagain

    The family wanted justice but what about justice for the victims of Mr Smith before he got shot? What about justice for all the businesses that were broken into, burned and looted? There’s a list in the article above. Is the family and the people of Sherman Park going to make reparations to them?
    WE WANT JUSTICE!!

  • 414 Say No Mo

    If you want to see an actual statement by the family Google” Syville Smith sister”, and I quote:
    “Burnin down sh*t ain’t going to help nothin! Y’all burnin’ down sh*t we need in our community. Take that sh*t to the suburbs. Burn that sh*t down! We need our sh*t! We need our weaves. I don’t wear it. But we need it.”

    • 414 Say No Mo

      You know who I’m “sick & tired” of hearing from Lena Taylor? You! How about you work on improving education in your district? Nevermind. If you did that they stop electing you. Same goes for Gwen Moore.

  • Victoria

    Is this really justice? No disrespect so the family and friends all this is saying is that a black man could be charged with another black man’s crime what about all the Caucasian officers who have taken the lives of black and Latino lives at the hands of their guns ……nothing happened nothing will be done .,.,…. I don’t know what the world is coming through or maybe it’s just always been this way but Justice was not served let’s go back to all the killings of black men and Latino men in Milwaukee County alone why are the Caucasian officers still allowed to walk around freely and be with their families happy on the holidays while this young man sits in prison for the same thing they did

  • Victoria

    You’re just as ignorant as your response this is not about Trump winning the election this is about an unjustified or unjust reason for a person to be killed no one cares the Trump won but you… You to will have to be judged..,. Hey you’re really scary because you’re hiding behind a name that it’s stupid what type of name is Trump is great put your real name out here or are you going to hide behind your races and on political concerns to the truth no one cares like I said and as far as getting out of America they’re here to stay get used to it think about all the things you wouldn’t have if African Americans would have not invented it you have to live with yourself being a racist pigment person one day you may need the help of an African American Latino American or 8 chinese-american let’s see if they’ve been the same hand to you remember Karma comes back and it comes back ten times harder so if it does not come to you maybe it will come to your children or your children’s children or their children’s children let’s see how happy you are When Donald Trump raises your taxes or make it so hard for you to live in a society ethical that you two are in the same boat ass some of the other Americans but don’t be an ass created with bigotry racism or on political concerns if you want to put compost things or write things about Donald Trump put your real name on it so that people know the racist person that you are

  • Victoria

    I can’t believe how this person named “Trump is Great” actually got on here and posted about how Trump is great and how African Americans need to get out of America let me say this you are an uneducated hiding behind a real name you are afraid to put your real name on social media but you are the same person who is downgrading a race of people for no reason or no understanding of one’s race I am sick of tired of all the stereotypes against one’s right there is crime that happens everywhere including other cities where there are low crime rate how about posting that your children and your children’s children or your wife or husband come down on Milwaukee and buy and sell drugs in the community you are not helping the community you are causing more harm to the community if anything you have not walked a mile in anyone’s shoes to understand the economic hardship that a race of people have endured for over 500 years put your real name here on Facebook so everyone knows the races and the bigotry and the an optimistic person that you are let the world know that you are racist filled with hate and do not plan on accepting another race anytime soon let your job know that you are a racist let the community know that you are a racist let the people of the world know that you are racist but you won’t you hide behind a name that is not yours and I stated in my comment reply just to his person Karma will come back and hit your family ten times harder than the hurt and pain that you planned for another person or people of color not all people of color are the same some people work very hard to be come out of the hardships or economic Injustice that they have suffered I’m thinking tired of hearing that all people are the same first and finally let me say this you cannot rid of a color or a race of people Hitler tried it it did not work if you think that our people will stand to be hurt tortured bully belittle do you have another thing coming African American Latino American Chinese American Asian Americans are here get used to it we are not going anywhere anytime soon as I stated earlier please post your name so everyone knows that you are racist and anyone who is following this person please post your name for the world know that you are racist too it does not mean anything that Donald Trump won the election it only means something to someone who does not have God in their lives Trump is not for a race of people sorry to disappoint you Donald Trump is specifically only for the rich and how to keep himself rich so with that being said the rich the wealthy and the ones who think they’re higher than other people are the ones that he will attack first am I worried about it no I believe in a higher power let’s see how far your bigotry racism unintelligent socially Politically Incorrect cells gets…

  • Clayton Bigsby

    Moral of the story is don’t run from the police with a firearm or you will be shot dead! Real simple criminals!!

Comments are closed.