Family of Dontre Hamilton files federal civil rights lawsuit against Milwaukee, Christopher Manney

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MILWAUKEE -- The family of Dontre Hamilton filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in Milwaukee on Wednesday, April 27th. The lawsuit names both former Milwaukee Police Officer Christopher Manney and the City of Milwaukee as defendants -- and was filed on behalf of Dontre Hamilton's son.

Officer-involved fatal shooting at Red Arrow Park

Officer-involved fatal shooting at Red Arrow Park

According to a statement released by the family, they are "seeking justice and accountability" for the death of 31-year-old Dontre on April 30, 2014. Dontre was shot and killed by Manney in Red Arrow Park in downtown Milwaukee.

"I really haven`t seen any progress in the policing of black people in Milwaukee," Maria Hamilton, Dontre Hamilton's mother said on April 27th, as the family announced this lawsuit.

"What we can do through this civil suit is make them more conscious -- and that`s not only the police department, that`s the city of Milwaukee," Nate Hamilton, Dontre Hamilton's brother said.

Dontre Hamilton and Christopher Manney

Dontre Hamilton and Christopher Manney

The following is noted in a news release issued by Hamilton family Attorney Jonathan Safran:

"Justice and accountability have been hard to come by for Dontre Hamilton’s family. Previously,
the Milwaukee County district attorney refused to issue state criminal charges against former
Officer Manney. Likewise, the United States Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, and the
United States Attorney’s Office refused to issue federal criminal charges against Manney. As the
two‐year anniversary of the shooting death of Dontre approaches, the family is left with one
final avenue to obtain accountability and justice for this tragedy. We have, therefore, filed this
civil lawsuit.

The federal complaint, which begins the lawsuit, lays out in detail the facts relating to Christopher Manney illegally shooting and killing Dontre Hamilton. While it may take more time, we believe that this civil rights lawsuit will provide a full account of what led Manney to confront, unlawfully detain, illegally search, and then subsequently shoot Dontre fourteen times, resulting in his death.

The federal complaint and the attached exhibits also explain how the city of Milwaukee’s
unconstitutional customs, policies and practices caused the death of Dontre Hamilton.
Examples of these unconstitutional customs, policies and practices include the city’s failure to
conduct psychological testing of Milwaukee police officers, the failure to discipline Milwaukee
police officers for misconduct, the “code of silence” that exists within the Milwaukee Police
Department, the widespread pattern of Milwaukee police officers conducting unconstitutional
searches and using excessive force, and the city’s failure to provide promised and necessary
Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training to Milwaukee police officers so that they can properly
interact with persons suffering from psychological conditions, such as with Dontre. The federal
complaint also describes how the Milwaukee Police Department failed to properly follow the
new Wisconsin law which required an outside agency to investigate former Officer Manney’s

We believe that this lawsuit will expose how many of the customs, policies and practices of the city of Milwaukee and its police department have contributed to actions of police officers in causing injuries and deaths to its citizens. We hope that this lawsuit leads to systemic changes within the city of Milwaukee and its police department so as to prevent future unconstitutional violations and future tragedies. No family should suffer like the family of Dontre Hamilton.

In addition to Christopher Manney’s actions, we believe that this lawsuit will expose how many
of the customs, policies and practices of the city of Milwaukee and its police department have
contributed to actions of police officers in causing injuries and deaths to its citizens. We hope
that this lawsuit leads to systemic changes within the city of Milwaukee and its police
department so as to prevent future unconstitutional violations and future tragedies. No family
should suffer like the family of Dontre Hamilton."

Hamilton was shot 14 times after Manney responded to a complaint of a man sleeping in Red Arrow Park on April 30th, 2014. Police said the shooting happened after a struggle, during which Hamilton grabbed Manney's baton. Manney was never charged, but he was fired after the police chief said he unnecessarily frisked Hamilton.

The 46-page lawsuit alleges a long, tragic history of a widespread pattern of violations committed by MPD officers.

It also says Dontre Hamilton suffered an unlawful detention, an unreasonable search and a fatal use of excessive force.

"The federal complaint also explains how the city of Milwaukee`s unconstitutional customs, policies and practices contributed to Dontre`s death," Safran said.

Dontre Hamilton's family

Dontre Hamilton's family

The lawsuit focuses on what Hamilton's family and their attorneys see as a lack of psychological screening for Milwaukee police officers. Perhaps, the lawsuit speculates, Manney would have been weeded out before he was hired. The suit also says only 367 of the force's 1,800 officers have gone through CIT (crisis intervention training).

"The emphasis here is not to indict the entire police department. Generally, they do a good job. What they do not do well is identifying the rogues and the scoundrels," Hamilton family attorney Alex Flynn said.

MPD spokesman Tim Gauerke said the department doesn't comment on pending litigation. City attorney Grant Langley also declined comment.

Manney spoke for the first time about the Hamilton incident when he talked on News/Talk 1130 in February.

Christopher Manney

Christopher Manney

"Life is 100% different and (my kids) say 'I want my dad back,' and it's tough. This incident has completely changed my life. Everyone says I'm this huge racist guy. But my nanny is Puerto Rican and Mexican. My kids are of a different race," Manney said.

Manney also described in that interview how his own family members struggle with mental illness.

"I will stand with the Hamilton family when it comes to justice, when it comes to the mental health issues because it just tore me apart. It just tore me apart. Why wasn't he at MCMH (Milwaukee County Mental Health)," Manney said.

Manney no longer lives in the state of Wisconsin. He said he was offered other jobs in law enforcement as soon as the day after he was fired. However, he says he is not fit to work as he still suffers from PTSD.


  • imcrazy

    “…we believe that this lawsuit will expose how many of the customs, policies and practices of the criminals of the City of Milwaukee have contributed to actions of police officers in causing injuries and deaths to its citizens.

    • Chester

      Bingo Stan!!! His family couldn’t handle him and he was left on streets but now that all care since it involves a payday! Pathetic lack of family structures continues to cost us hard working taxpayers big money and the families are all quick to point the finger and expect compensation for their failures when they should be looking in the mirror as to who to blame.

      • Perri

        Actually, the family was upset about this coverage. According to them, he was not homeless and was actually employed part-time, getting treatment and getting his life in order. Besides, if you have ever dealt with a mentally ill family member or friend or even someone with drug and alcohol issues, you will know that it can be challenging to deal with people who do not realize how sick they are.

      • Tough for all

        I know how challenging it is to deal with the mentally ill through personal experience. I know how uncontrollably they can become for no reason. The instability is challenging for family and friends who know them so why wouldn’t it be even more incredibly challenging for law enforcement to deal with mentally ill unstable people when they become violent and threatening their physical safety?

    • OJ Simpson

      It’s also a shame that all the abortion protesters do not pay for the healthcare, education, food and love ALL the unwanted children born by mothers that do not want them.

  • commonense

    @Stan – EXACTLY! The media needs to move on because quite frankly, we’re all tired of this not to mention that this looks so ridiculous. This supposedly loving and caring family knew that Dontre had issues but yet they casted him out to the streets of Milwaukee. Then an unfortunate incident happens and now they crawl out of the wood work to collect money! That looks really bad!

    • anyonebuthillaryorbernie

      If I had a Family member that was having a tuff Time…… he or she would not be on the Street……………People Wake up.

  • walloffthenorthside

    I hope they lose and lose big. The only person responsible for Dontre death is Dontre. Let’s abandon our family member then once the police shoot him for trying to kill a cop play the ghetto lottery.

  • imcrazy

    If the Hamilton family loses their law suit make them pay all court related costs. If all cases were handles that way it might stop some of these law suits.

  • Dylan

    I guess maybe if people research ccap.court records looks like Dontrelle fathered a child before he died…so looks like grandma and uncle. Should not get a dime. Put it in a trust fund. So the little one never has to go in public assistance …if anything is paid out

  • Wilson

    This sh*tbag scummy low life Hamilton family ran out of their Starbucks money and now wants city of Milwaukee money. Loser atty saffron wants his piece of the pile too.

  • Mark Robles

    Manney was cleared of any wrong doing by police review board and the Federal Department of Justice! These idiots just want to get “paid”! Nate Hamilton is nothing but an attention grabbing moron who enjoyed the spotlight and just can’t get enough!! You failed your family member and blaming the police will not change that so get over it! Next time you have a family member who’s in need of help, move mountains to get them that help instead of waiting for help to come to you!!

  • Angry Dad

    The family is as greedy as they are ignorant. Now they want to use the Obama legal department to help them “get their ghetto lottery money” greedy ass mf’s This family is a cancer in this city.

  • Itsabouttime

    April 30, 2014 was a cold day. Hamilton family did you ever think about how Dontre felt as he laid on the cold ground prior to the shooting in hopes of staying warm. You Hamilton family walked away from Dontre knowing of his mental illness. You Hamilton family could have checked into resources and gotten him into a safe and secure place. You Hamilton family failed to take care of Dontre because you didn’t want the burden which is extremely sad. As the saying goes “family always should stick by other family members NO matter what the circumstances are”. Stop blaming everyone else because you Hamilton family walked away.

  • Perri

    Actually from what I understand, the family claims that the report on being homeless is not true. Dontre Hamilton was working part-time and had housing and was actually getting treatment and doing fairly well before his murder. Besides, anyone who has dealt with mentally ill family members or friends knows how difficult it can be to get the proper care for someone and get them stable. This is true of anyone struggling with drug or alcohol issues, too. Think and judge not, lest ye be judged.

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