MILWAUKEE -- Ladell Harrison, convicted in connection with the death of Milwaukee Police Officer Charles Irvine Jr. was sentenced Thursday, April 4 to 30 years in prison and another 20 years extended supervision. Prosecutors said the sentencing needed to send a message to the community that fleeing from police is reckless -- and will not be tolerated.
"I don't know, Mr. Harrison, how it gets more serious than that. The community needs to understand that people who engage in conduct that you engaged in are going to be treated seriously. If it only stops one or two from fleeing -- that is enough," said Judge Janet Protasiewicz.
Harrison, 29, in February pleaded guilty to six of 12 charges filed against him:
- Manufacture/deliver Schedule I, II narcotics: five years in prison, five years extended supervision
- Operator flee/elude officer -- death: 10 years in prison, five years extended supervision
- Operator flee/elude officer -- bodily harm or property damage: three years in prison, three years extended supervision
- Knowingly operating while revoked, causing death: three years in prison, three years extended supervision
- First degree recklessly endangering safety -- two counts: five years in prison, two years extended supervision on the first count; four years in prison and two years extended supervision on the second count
Officer Charles Irvine Jr., 23, died on June 7, 2018 after a violent crash near 76th and Silver Spring Drive. He was a police aide for two years and an officer for nearly two more.
Before the sentence was handed down, Officer Irvine's partner, Officer Matthew Schulze, Officer Irvine's mother and his sister all shared victim impact statements with the court -- sharing stories about a young man dedicated to protecting his community -- killed because of Harrison's bad choices.
"Losing Chuckie was harder than I could have imagined. He meant the world to me. Nothing will ever fix that pain or replace him. He graduated from the police academy on his 22nd birthday. Eight months later, he walked his sister down the aisle, and because of Mr. Harrison's choices, eight months after that, his casket was walked down the aisle," said Christy Irvine-Bachmann, Officer Irvine's mother.
"Harrison's reckless and selfish actions caused the death of Officer Charles Irvine Jr. Ladell Harrison deserves and needs the max sentence for his crimes," said Officer Schulze.
"It is my prayer and hope that everyone that has been impacted by this incident can someday soon get back on in the path of life," said Harrison.
As Harrison and his defense asked for mercy, prosecutors showed dashcam video of the pursuit, stopping just before the wreck.
The Milwaukee Police Department issued this statement after the sentencing hearing:
"On Thursday, April 4, 2019, Ladell Harrison was sentenced to 30 years in prison for his involvement in the death of Officer Charles Irvine Jr. Although we are grateful that Mr. Harrison has been sentenced with a significant amount of prison time, we are still mourning Chuckie’s loss.
"Officer Irvine Jr. was killed during a squad accident while pursing Mr. Harrison who was placing the lives of others in danger while driving recklessly and involved in the mobile drug market. Although we are still grieving Officer Irvine Jr., we will never forget him or his contribution to the Milwaukee Police Department and City of Milwaukee.
"We offer our condolences to Officer Irvine’s family, friends and co-workers. We want to thank all members of the Milwaukee Police Department, along with our partner law enforcement agencies for their assistance in this investigation. We would also like to thank all of the members of our community, both locally and nationwide who have shown a tremendous amount of support to MPD, which we will forever be grateful for."
The criminal complaint against Harrison detailed multiple incidents -- some of which happened long before the crash that caused the death of Officer Irvine Jr. Harrison faces multiple drug charges for incidents that started back in November 2017 through February 2018. Those allegedly involved heroin, cocaine and fentanyl.
As for the June 7, 2018 crash that led to the death of Officer Irvine, the complaint said Harrison was driving a black sedan on that date. Officers Irvine Jr. and Schulze witnessed Harrison quickly change lanes at the end of the intersection at 91st and Silver Spring.
The officers activated their lights and sirens to attempt to pull the car over. Squad car video showed the sedan fled "at a high rate of speed." It is estimated the sedan initially "reached speeds of 68.8 miles per hour." Within a minute of leaving the intersection, the complaint said the sedan obtained speeds of "84.8 miles per hour and was pulling away from the squad." Moments later, the sedan changed into "the bicycle lane and the squad which is pursuing it is now traveling at 91.2 miles per hour" as they were approaching W. Fond du Lac Avenue. The complaint indicated the sedan was "traveling at a higher rate of speed than the MPD squad."
The complaint said the sedan was passing other vehicles at speeds in excess of 95 miles per hour. As it approached the bridge with N. 76th Street, the "Milwaukee squad car is traveling at 96.3 miles per hour" -- and the sedan is "pulling away, showing it is going at a faster rate of speed. The squad cam shows that as the squad car is approaching the bridge, the squad car loses control and crashes."
Prosecutors said the squad carrying the officers may have flipped as many as 20 times. Officer Irvine was thrown from the vehicle and later died.
Other officers arriving on the scene began their search for the car Harrison was driving -- based on its description and license plate -- using details Irvine and Schulze broadcast before the crash. In their last broadcast to dispatch, they can be heard relaying the sedan's plate number before "the sounds of tires screeching can be heard," the charging documents said.
Officers operating in an undercover vehicle later found the sedan near Fond du lac and Mill Road. Officers noticed a woman got into the car -- and Harrison, who had two small children with him, got into another vehicle -- a Lexus. The complaint said officers tracked the vehicles for about five minutes. When the two cars stopped, they were in an alley off of Bradley Road. Officers noted Harrison got out of the vehicle, the complaint said. They approached him and verbally identified themselves as police. That is when Harrison "ran to the driver's seat of a Lexus, jumped in the driver's seat and closed the door." Officers observed a small child in the back seat of the car screaming. The complaint said the officers fanned around the car -- and ordered Harrison to exit the vehicle. When an officer tried to break the window of the car, Harrison "placed both hands in the air indicating a possible surrender. Instead of surrendering, Harrison then placed the Lexus in drive and sped away westbound in the alley."
The complaint said at one point, Harrison told investigators he drove the Lexus past the crash at 76th and Silver Spring and stated that "he knew something bad had happened."
The complaint said officers followed a Chevy Tahoe also associated with Harrison, which pulled into a parking lot of a business on Fond du Lac Avenue. The complaint said Harrison jumped out of the car -- and began running. A short time later, police took Harrison into custody.
When questioned by investigators, Harrison "stated that when he fled from officers, he did so because he knew he should not be driving because his license was revoked, because he had a firearm in the car -- and he further admitted that his 5-year-old son...was in the vehicle with him." He stated he had been driving the first sedan to pick up his son from day care. During that process, Harrison said he was "playing his music very loud. He stated he was not paying attention and he noticed a police officer's marked squad that was stopped behind him at the light. He stated that he turned the music down and waited for the light to turn green." When Harrison saw the officers activate their lights and sirens, Harrison "stated that he was scared because he was carrying a semi-automatic pistol in the car and he was not supposed to be driving due to his revoked driver's license status" and because he had his son with him.
Toward the end of their interview, Harrison told police, "I thought you guys couldn't pursue vehicles unless it was a felony." Detectives told Harrison that had once been the policy, but it had changed. Harrison "did not appear to be aware of the change in pursuit policy."
Until fall 2017, Milwaukee police were only allowed to chase drivers suspected of committing a violent felony — a directive put in place in 2010 after four bystanders were killed during three separate police chases. Former police Chief Edward Flynn revised the policy after pressure from the Milwaukee Common Council and members of the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission, who were responding to public outcry over reckless drivers.
The complaint said Harrison said he did not see when the police squad crashed as he was "so far ahead of the police that they were not in his rearview mirror."
Harrison's 5-year-old son told investigators he was not in a car seat during the pursuit. A gun was recovered from the vehicle, the complaint said.
The charging documents indicated Harrison's license was revoked in August of 2016 due to an OWI conviction. He was charged in February 2017 with operating while revoked due to that OWI conviction, and released on a $500 signature bond on May 30, 2018 -- nine days before the deadly crash. The documents stated Harrison "failed to appear in court during the pendency of the case," and "this charge shows Harrison was aware that his driver's license was revoked at the time he fled police and caused the death of Officer Irvine."