MILWAUKEE -- The Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office has cleared Milwaukee County Sheriff's Deputy Michael Truax of any wrongdoing for his use of force that resulted in the death of Terry Williams in June 2017.
Williams, 19, was shot along Milwaukee’s lakefront on June 11. Dashcam video showed what happened from the vantage point of a deputy trying to pull over the Audi Williams was driving. You can hear the voice of Captain Daniel Hughes speaking about the video from the office of the sheriff:
Despite the squad's flashing lights and an external microphone command to pull over, the video shows the Audi cut across traffic, and then headed across park land towards Lincoln Memorial Drive. In slow motion, once on Lincoln Memorial, you can see the Audi jumped the median. The sheriff's office said the Audi then went into the oncoming traffic lanes. That's when Deputy Michael Truax, on foot patrol at the intersection, fired eight times into the SUV. The SUV swerved and nearly hit Truax before it made it back into northbound lanes, where it crashed into a parked vehicle.
Williams died from a gunshot wound to the head.
This matter was investigated by the Waukesha County Sheriff's Department, which responded to the scene that June evening. Truax told investigators he intervened "because he was concerned about the safety of others in the area," and he feared for his own life.
To determine whether the deputy's use of force was appropriate, the district attorney indicated in a letter to Acting Milwaukee County Sheriff Richard Schmidt that two parts were closely surveyed. They include:
- Did the officer have an actual subjective belief that deadly force was necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or others?
- Was that belief objectively reasonable?
The district attorney's letter says the "evidence in this case supports the use of force by Deputy Truax under these circumstances. Williams made the conscious decision to avoid being stopped by a marked squad with activated lights and siren. Instead of following an officer's express order to pull his vehicle out of traffic, he drove off the road into a grassy public space often occupied by pedestrians."
The letter ends by saying: "Truax intervened personally; his own life was endangered by Williams' continued driving toward him and actually veering his vehicle toward Truax. The evidence in this matter indicates Truax reasonably used deadly force in defense of others as well as himself."
The Williams family sees things differently. Walter Stern, their attorney, filed a federal lawsuit this summer, arguing deputies shouldn't have tried to pull him over in the first place.
"Essentially, they shot Mr. Williams to stop him, not to protect the officer or anyone else. Mr. Williams was stopped because of the strange color of the car, and not because of any traffic violation to begin with," said Stern.
A toxicology report revealed Williams had opiates and marijuana in his system.
The Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office tells FOX6 News there was a delay in making a decision on this case because Deputy Truax did not give a statement to investigators until approximately a year after the incident.
The civil case is still pending in federal court.