US & Canada

Milwaukee former police officer charged with homicide

Dominique Heaggan-Brown (L) and Sylville Smith Image copyright Police
Image caption Dominique Heaggan-Brown (L) and Sylville Smith

A former Milwaukee police officer has been charged with first-degree reckless homicide in an August shooting.

Dominique Heaggan-Brown shot and killed Sylville Smith, 23, on 13 August 2016 after he fled from police. The death sparked two days of riots in Milwaukee.

Prosecutors decided to charge him after police body camera footage allegedly showed the officer shooting Smith in the chest as he lay on the ground.

Smith was armed with a pistol, but threw it over a fence before his death.

Both the victim and the former police officer are African-American.

Mr Heaggan-Brown, 24, has already been fired from the police force due to an unrelated investigation accusing him of sexual assault.

Image copyright AP
Image caption The ex-officer appeared in court on Thursday

According to the criminal complaint, the body camera video shows Smith fall to his back after being shot by the officers who had pursued him on foot after he fled from a traffic stop.

Mr Heaggan-Brown's first bullet hit Smith in the right arm, as he was turning "his head and upper body towards the officers", while still holding the semi-automatic pistol.

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Media captionHelping US police not to pull the trigger

"He then raises the gun upward while looking in the direction of the officers and throws the gun over the fence into the yard," the complaint reads.

After Smith was hit, a police body camera shows him fall to his back, with his arms extended upwards towards his head.

"Heaggan-Brown is observed standing a short distance from Smith with his weapon pointed down at Smith when Heaggan-Brown discharges a second shot from his weapon at what appears to be Smith's chest."

Image copyright AP
Image caption Police made multiple arrests during the two days of unrest

A review of the body camera video "confirms that at the time of the second shot, Smith was unarmed and had his hands near his head".

According to investigators, 1.69 seconds elapsed between the first and second shots.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Cars at a petrol station were burned during the second night of violence

Police chief Ed Flynn had fired Mr Heaggan-Brown from the police force in October after he was charged with sexual assault in an unrelated case.

Prosecutors say that Mr Heaggan-Brown went to a bar with another man on the night of 14 August - one day after the shooting - where they drank and watched the riots on TV.

The man told authorities that the former Milwaukee officer bragged that he could do whatever he wanted without repercussions, and that he later woke up to the officer sexually assaulting him.

He has also been charged with soliciting sex from two people, as well as sexually assaulting another person in July 2016 and photographing the naked victim.

If found guilty of reckless homicide he could face 60 years in prison.

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