MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- The Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission will soon hear the case to decide whether Christopher Manney should remain fired from the Milwaukee Police Department. Manney's appeal hearing is set to begin Thursday, March 19th.
Manney is the officer who shot and killed 31-year-old Dontre Hamilton in Red Arrow Park last April.
On April 30th, 2014, 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 was terminated from the Milwaukee Police Department for his handling of Hamilton that day.
Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn fired Manney in October 2014, saying Manney treated Hamilton like a criminal when he decided to pat him down. It was that pat down that cost Manney his job.
"There`s a set of training and enforcements that you are taught and you don`t go hands on and start frisking somebody only because they appear to be mentally ill," Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn said in announcing Manney's firing from MPD.
On December 22nd, 2014, the Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office announced 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."
Manney is appealing his termination from MPD, which brings us to Thursday's hearing.
Family members and supporters of Dontre Hamilton have been demonstrating since the shooting. They hoped Christopher Manney would be criminally charged, and now, they hope the FPC will uphold Manney's termination.
Thursday's hearing will be the first time Dontre Hamilton's family members will see Christopher Manney in person.
"One of the brothers is very concerned about (the appeal hearing), hoping he can keep himself under control, knowing that the killer of his brother is going to be that close," said Jonathan Safran, Hamilton's family's attorney.
The appeal hearing will be held in a municipal courtroom at the Milwaukee County Courthouse on Thursday. Retired Judge Michael Skwierawski will oversee proceedings. A panel of three Fire and Police Commissioners, who will ultimately make the decision, will sit below the judge. Facing the Fire and Police Commission, on one side of the courtroom, will be Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn and his lawyer. They will argue to keep Manney's termination in place. On the other side, Manney and his attorney will fight to overturn the firing. In the gallery, the first row on each side is reserved for the family of Dontre Hamilton and those supporting Christopher Manney.
"They are quite nervous, both in regards to seeing Christopher Manney in person for the first time, as well as what is going to happen. I will tell you they don't have much confidence in the system at this point," said Safran.
Safran says the hearings will focus on whether Manney violated police policy with his search of Hamilton. That will be phase one of the hearing. 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.
"Just having lots of people when emotions are high, depending on where it is and what phases of the hearing, concerns me a little bit. But I'm sure the department is preparing for that," said Safran.
The shooting itself is not expected to be addressed in the hearings. Unless there is a change, the Hamilton family will have no opportunity to speak.
Officials say no signs will be allowed in the courtroom -- and only 59 people will be allowed there. An overflow room will be set up so more of the public can watch.
"We have to guarantee access to this hearing -- open hearing. We want to make sure people that are spectators behave in a safe and orderly manner," Chief Flynn said.
It's not clear how long the hearing will last. Courtroom time has been set aside for the hearing on Thursday and Friday evening as well as Saturday during the day.