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ACLU on decision not to release body cam footage after officer-involved shooting: “Speculation is going to continue”

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MILWAUKEE — Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel said Monday, August 22nd the fatal police shooting in Milwaukee that sparked two nights of violence was recorded by not one but two body cameras. But Schimel said the body camera video in this case won’t be released anytime soon.

Sylville SmithThe state is investigating the August 13th shooting of 23-year-old Sylville Smith.

Smith was fatally shot near 44th and Auer on Saturday afternoon, August 13th. The incident touched off several days of unrest in Milwaukee’s Sherman Park neighborhood. Authorities have said Smith was fleeing police and that footage from the officer’s body camera clearly shows Smith holding a handgun and turning toward an officer when he was shot

Schimel said authorities are reviewing that as well as a second video recorded by another officer’s body camera. He said the vantage points are similar.

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel

Schimel said the videos won’t be released until after the county prosecutor decides whether to charge the officer.

“The body camera video is just one piece of information among many sources of information. They give only a narrow and incomplete glimpse of the overall picture. I can tell you now, viewing the body camera videos will not answer all of your questions. It will be released after the district attorney is done with his final determination,” Schimel said.

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel

Schimel said release of the videos would compromise the integrity of the investigation, which is ongoing.

“It is sometimes necessary to confront witnesses with information they didn’t know or they didn’t know we knew. I can’t have witness statements colored or tainted by information they’re seeing from other sources. We are still collecting information and we will have follow-up questions for some of the witnesses who were interviewed already,” Schimel said.

Schimel indicated all critical witnesses have been interviewed at least once. A neighborhood canvass has been done. Schimel said the unrest that occurred after the shooting of Smith did slow the investigation.

“We had to put our crime lab forensic investigators in body armor in order for them to be able to collect evidence safely at the crime scene. Agents from the Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) could not initially move as freely as they would have liked — and were delayed in collecting information,” Schimel said.

Schimel said this case remains a top priority for the DCI Milwaukee office.


After Schimel’s Monday news conference, those with the ACLU of Wisconsin said many questions remain unanswered.

Since the unrest sparked by this fatal officer-involved shooting on August 13th, ACLU officials have been calling on the state and Milwaukee police to be more transparent.

Chris Ahmuty

Chris Ahmuty

“The ACLU believes that once the critical witnesses have been interviewed, the video can be released without compromising the investigation,” Chris Ahmuty said.

Ahmuty, executive director of the ACLU of Wisconsin applauded Schimel for releasing new details in the investigation, including that all critical witnesses have been interviewed. But Ahmuty said that should warrant the release of the body camera footage.

“If you leave things hanging out too long, speculation is going to continue. Trust is going to be undermined,” Ahmuty said.

Ahmuty has called on the Milwaukee Police Department to release information on its internal investigation into this fatal officer-involved shooting. MPD officials told FOX6 News Chief Ed Flynn has no comment.

Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn

Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn

“The chief has said this is a suspicion stop. A suspicion stop? OK, so what was suspicious about these two men in the rental car?” Ahmuty said.

Although the unrest sparked by the shooting has dissipated in the Sherman Park neighborhood, Ahmuty said he worries tension could rise again if the information officials are sharing with the public remains vague.

“Trust without verification only lasts so long,” Ahmuty said.

Officer-involved shooting near 44th & Auer

Officer-involved shooting near 44th & Auer


  • Opinion8d

    The ACLU should be classified as a terrorist organization -they are constantly trying subvert the existence of America! They claim the ‘trust’ only lasts so long??!?! Really?? It’s called Due Process!! The fact is nothing is going to make the rioters believe the police were justified -and they’ve said it themselves. They are too ignorant to and incapable of rational thought! The left complained that we need an outside agency to review these shootings, and they still aren’t satisfied.

  • Mike

    Then quit assuming things and wait for all the evidence to come forward….stupid racist ignorant asshats…instead of making things up and jumping to conclusions like you did in say Ferguson, Baltimore and Cleveland. ACLU is just another part of Obama’s America that is dividing people and making things worse.

  • confused

    Just wait. Man, you don’t hear New London WI having this problem when a man who was shot this weekend and he had a TOY gun and refused to listen. Just wait. Burning, looting and other CRIMES is not waiting. The only shots fired during the mayhem-not unrest-were fired by non-police! And people were hit. Go live in Iraq or Iran for a while.

  • guest89

    They’re not going to release the footage until their investigation is complete. Investigations such as this should not be conducted in the court of public opinion. So have your marches, church services, community meetings and balloon releases and let the authorities get back to doing their jobs.

  • NorellWE

    The ACLU now there is a joke. Soros is a big supporter and so is Bill Moyer and the Ford Foundation. Ford Foundation is known to help fund the Palestinian’s. So the ACLU is just another Liberal bunch of moron terrorist/

  • Paul

    The ACLU has no interest in protecting law abiding citizens. It is a group determined to spark social unrest. Only thing left for an organization that has become irrelavant.

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