MILWAUKEE -- A jury trial begins Monday, June 12th for 25-year-old Dominique Heaggan-Brown, the former Milwaukee police officer accused of shooting and killing 23-year-old Sylville Smith.
Heaggan-Brown faces one count of first degree reckless homicide.
He was charged in December. The charge carries a maximum sentence of 60 years in prison.
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.
The 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."
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.
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."
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."
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."
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."
The Milwaukee Police Department terminated 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:
- 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."
A jury trial in the sexual assault case is scheduled to begin in August.
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.
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