RACINE — Racine County District Attorney Tricia Hanson has ruled two Racine police officers were justified in shooting and killing Donte Shannon, 26, on Jan. 17 after Shannon fled a traffic stop -- a decision that led to an emotional response from Shannon's family. The family said they don't believe Shannon had a gun.
"This is how they've been doing us, and they're going to continue doing us this way," said Shakyra Ellis, Shannon's aunt.
"This is what we face every day -- crooked cops telling us they want to kill us," said Isaac Shannon, Donte Shannon's uncle.
Shannon's father, Nakia Shannon, has previously said he counted 17 bullet and graze wounds on his son's body.
"There's no reason for the cops to have shot him that many times, saying he was a threat," said Mary Myers, Shannon's grandmother.
A statement from Hanson indicates "after an extensive investigation and an exhaustive review of the evidence, District Attorney Hanson has found that Investigator Chad Stillman and Officer Peter Boeck are immune from criminal liability in this case, as Mr. Shannon’s death was a direct result of his deadly threat to the officers."
Hanson noted in the statement that Shannon was armed with a 9mm handgun, "that he pointed down at the officers three separate times, while being given commands to stay down and drop his weapon."
There were more than a dozen witnesses who corroborated these commands, Hanson said.
Audio recordings show there were three separate rounds of gunfire, Hanson said. Officers fired at Shannon "in response to his immediate threat to protect themselves and each other."
"I don't believe he had a gun. He dropped his cellphone. They shot him right when he got out of the car in his leg," said Myers.
Hanson's statement notes that "there is no doubt the weapon was in Mr. Shannon's possession." She said the gun was purchased and owned by Shannon's father, Nakia Shannon. The weapon was tested at the Wisconsin State Crime Lab and was found to have Shannon's DNA on it.
Additionally, Hanson's statement says "there is also no question that the gun was not hidden by Mr. Shannon from the officers," noting that Shannon suffered injuries to his right hand/shooting hand, "consistent with his hand being on the weapon and his finger on the trigger." Hanson said the gun was damaged by the trigger and behind the trigger by gunfire during the exchange with the two officers.
Hanson said as a convicted felon who was out on probation at the time of this officer-involved shooting, Shannon was prohibited from possessing this firearm. This "may have been his motive for fleeing the officers," Hanson said. Shannon also had marijuana and was driving with a revoked license, Hanson said.
Shannon's family filed a federal lawsuit against police in February, claiming police shot him in the back while he was running, and he did not pose a threat.
In a statement after the district attorney's decision was announced, City of Racine officials noted Racine PD Investigator Chad Stillman and Officer Peter Boeck are members of the Greater Racine FBI Gang Task Force. Members of this special investigative unit are tasked with identifying, disrupting, and dismantling organized networks of gang members, drug dealers, felons, and other violent individuals. The traffic stop initiated in this case was directly connected to the investigative work performed by FBI Gang Task Force members.
They noted that initial reports that no firearm was located in connection with this incident were erroneous.
Statement from Mayor Cory Mason:
It is the goal of the City that everyone gets to go home safely. Police work, at its heart, is about public safety. The loss of life is never the desired outcome. In this case, the use of lethal force was justified. Sadly, a family is missing someone who did not come home. This incident should serve as a somber reminder to our community of both the dangers and consequences faced by law enforcement officers and citizens when firearms are introduced into the instant decision-making of a threatening encounter. We are thankful that our RPD officers returned home to their families alive and physically unharmed.
Statement from Chief Arthel Howell:
With the close of this investigation, I would like to take this opportunity to publicly acknowledge and thank a number of individuals and groups who assisted our department and our community in responding to this incident in a peaceful manner. From our department chaplains, to a number of local pastors and community leaders, we are grateful for your support and demonstrated leadership. Most
notably, I would like to acknowledge and thank the men and women of the Racine Police Department who continued to serve with honor and dignity while protecting the constitutional rights of all citizens in the process. During the history of the Racine Police Department, twelve brave officers lost their lives in the line of duty in selfless service to others. We are grateful this list has not grown longer as our members face danger day in and day out in service to the citizens of our community.
The Wisconsin Department of Justice investigated the shooting and turned over evidence to Hanson to make her decision.
Overcome with emotion while thinking about his son's last moments of life, Donte Shannon's father and grandmother on Tuesday were overwhelmed with grief as they spoke out ahead of the meeting with the district attorney.
"When he got there, he was DOA. He died alone. Nobody was there," they said. "It's not fair to anybody to lose their child or loved one that way."
The officers have been on paid administrative leave since the shooting, which happened as Shannon fled a traffic stop.
"You can't justify shooting someone in the back," said Myers.
"What was the reason you had to kill him? What was the reason?" said Nakia Shannon.
After the Wisconsin Department of Justice concluded its investigation, Shannon's family looked to Hanson for answers and more details.
"We are supposed to get the discovery today, the autopsy report today, and she's supposed to let us know if she is charging the officers or not today. I just want the DA to be fair and understanding, as he was a human being. Nobody deserves to die like that," said Nakia Shannon ahead of the ruling.
While Donte Shannon's family members tried to remain optimistic Tuesday that justice would be served, they said they want those supporting them to not be discouraged if the decision isn't in their favor.
"I don't want people to get angry or bitter. No arguing. We are going to do this the right way. We want to keep everything peaceful. I will go as far as I have to go to make sure this gets resolved the right way," said Nakia Shannon.
Nakia Shannon didn't say much Tuesday as he exited the Racine County Courthouse, only that he will dig into the evidence.