Officer-involved shooting trial: Partner testifies as dash-cam video is played in court

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Devon Kraemer

MILWAUKEE — On Thursday, Feb. 15, we heard from the partner of Devon Kraemer, a Brown Deer police officer who’s now on trial — charged for her decision to shoot a man during an attempted arrest.

Officer Michael Leeman was on the stand the entire day Thursday. Prosecutors say his story changed from the days after the shooting to a recent version of what happened. Kraemer’s lawyers said the threat he described in a January report was real.

In court, dashboard camera video from a responding officer showed the moments after the March 2016 officer-involved shooting in Brown Deer. Officer Leeman can be seen giving CPR to Manual Burnley, Jr., who had just been shot by Kraemer.

Kraemer has since been charged with aggravated battery – use of a dangerous weapon as prosecutors say she had no justification for shooting Burnley in the back while he was on his stomach.

Michael Leeman

Prosecutor James Griffin asked: “Do you have any skills in distinguishing between an (expletive) and a dangerous (expletive)?”

Leeman responded: “Just what I’ve been taught.”

The exchange was in reference to the determination officers had to make as Burnley caused a commotion on a Milwaukee County bus and resisted the officers as they tried to arrest him.

Manuel Burnley, Devon Kraemer

Officer-involved shooting in March 2016 in Brown Deer

Kraemer and Leeman went to the ground trying to arrest the 370-pound man. Kraemer says she fired a shot because she became fearful after losing sight of Burnley’s arm.

Special Restrictions Upheld

FOX6 News did not show Leeman’s face because of a judge’s special order for this trial that we cannot record witnesses’ faces. Milwaukee County’s Chief Judge Maxine White rejected an appeal of that ruling.

“The media interveners have not established the existence of a constitutional right of camera access to a criminal trial,” said Judge White.

While cameras are allowed in criminal courts in Wisconsin, the judges have the discretion to limit when they’re admitted and what they can record. The attorney representing a local television station argued that given the public interest in this case and that many of the witnesses – expert witness and police officers – are public figures whose images are, in many cases, already available online, the order should be overturned. White, however, sided with the trial judge, T. Christopher Dee.

Changing stories?

During Leeman’s testimony, prosecutors poked at what they see as a discrepancy. They said two days after the shooting, Leeman said Burnley’s hand went on his neck, but he brushed it off and it caused no pain. Ten months later, and after Kraemer had been charged, he allegedly said Burnley tried to choke him.

Officer-involved shooting in March 2016 in Brown Deer

Prosecutor James Griffin: “It goes from two days after, when your memory is good, to a lot scarier in the January report. Do you agree with that?”

Leeman: “Yes.”

On cross examination, Kraemer’s lawyers challenged the idea Leeman exaggerated the threat.

Defense attorney Michael Steinle: “Mr. Burnley was more than resisting, wasn’t he?”

Leeman: “Yes, sir.”

Defense attorney Michael Steinle: “He was fighting with you, wasn’t he?”

Leeman: “Yes, sir.”

Officer-involved shooting in March 2016 in Brown Deer

Leeman injured his hip in the fall, but has been back to work. Burnley will also testify in the trial, possibly as soon as Friday, Feb. 16.

NOTE: This article was corrected on February 21 to reflect the responding officer’s camera was from the squad’s dashboard, not a body camera.