‘He had a lot of strength on me:’ Officer charged with shooting unarmed man takes stand in own defense

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MILWAUKEE -- Brown Deer Police Officer Devon Kraemer, charged in connection with a March 2016 shooting, took the witness stand in her own defense on Thursday, Feb. 22. During her testimony, Kraemer explained why she fired one shot into Manuel Burnley Jr.'s back after a confrontation on a Milwaukee County Transit System bus.

On the ninth day of her trial Kraemer went through the moments and what she perceived as the action that made her go for her gun.

"He erupted into hostile, profane language," Kraemer said of Burnley. "I could see his throat muscles clenching,"

Kraemer said she got worried the moment she boarded the bus on March 14, 2016. She said Burnley Jr. was intimidating because of his 370-pound frame and his anger over the situation.

Bus dispute with Manuel Burnley

"Once we stepped off the bus, the resistive tension was very strong and it was clear he had a lot of strength on me," Kraemer said.

Kraemer said her concerns only worsened as she and Officer Michael Leeman took Burnley off the bus. Surveillance video shows Leeman stepped in front of Burnley, getting him to fall but the two officers went to the ground too.

Bus dispute with Manuel Burnley

Officer-involved shooting near 60th and Donna in Brown Deer

Shooting incident involving Manuel Burnley

"It was now a ground fight with an individual who was more than two times my size," Kraemer said.

Burnley testified earlier he wasn't fighting with the officers, but he expected a Taser would be used because the officers couldn't get him handcuffed. The video shows Leeman flipping Burnley onto his stomach. Kraemer said she didn't know it was Leeman and felt alone with an out-of-control Burnley.

"I didn't feel Officer Leeman was helping control him. It felt like it was all on me," Kraemer said.

Kraemer then described the moment she decided to shoot.

Manuel Burnley, Devon Kraemer

"I'm perceiving he's grabbing a weapon he's concealed on his person," Kraemer said.

Kraemer fired one shot into Burnley's back. The man survived but lost part of his lung. Burnley did not have a weapon. Burnley's attorney, Jonathan Safran, has filed a notice of intent that names the Village of Brown Deer and Kraemer as possible defendants.

Burnley was never charged with a crime after the incident although he was initially arrested. The Milwaukee County District Attorney's office has not responded to our questions about whether Milwaukee Police referred him for possible charges.

Emanuel Kapelsohn, a use-of-force expert for the state, said Kraemer should've gone for her Taser before her gun. Kraemer said she didn't consider a Taser because that's a lower level of force than knee strikes, something she had already tried to no effect.

Kraemer will be back on the stand on Friday.

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