Jury acquits former USA cop in fatal shooting of black man

Summary: Former Milwaukee police officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown was found not guilty by a jury in the shooting death of Sylville Smith.

Heaggan-Brown was sacked from the Milwaukee Police Department last fall on sexual assault charges, according to the New York Times. The sequestered jury began deliberations at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday after closing arguments, and the news media were told at about 1:45 p.m. Wednesday that a verdict had been reached. A jury on Wednesday acquitted Brown of first-degree reckless homicide in the killing of Sylville Smith, a 23-year-old black man, on August 13, 2016.

The Syville Smith shooting, and the two days of protests, was one of the biggest stories in Milwaukee past year.

Attorney David Owens announced it Wednesday, just minutes after a jury cleared Heaggan-Brown of criminal reckless homicide in the shooting of Smith last August that spurred two nights of violence in Milwaukee. He told the court that Heaggan-Brown was following officer training in ending a threat and that the former officer could not have known whether Smith had another weapon on him while he was lying on the ground and that it all happened in a split second. Prior to being sworn in as an officer in 2013, Heaggan-Brown was pulled over for speeding twice, both incidents within two days of each other, in 2011, they say. Heaggan-Brown fired one shot from his service weapon, striking Smith in the right arm and prompting Smith to toss his own firearm over a fence and place his hands on his head.

Smith's family wants a judge to declare that Heaggan-Brown used excessive force in the wrongful death of Smith, to award the family compensatory and punitive damages, and to hold the city liable for the incident. They were escorted out by a group of sheriff's deputies.

Outside the courthouse Wednesday, Smith's father, Patrick, said the verdict was "disrespectful".

Sylville Smith's sister, Sherelle Smith, asked for calm and for people to come together in peace.

Officer Heaggan-Brown and another officer were working in a residential neighborhood in Milwaukee when they approached Mr. Smith, who they suspected was involved in a drug deal.

Heaggan-Brown could also be heard in the video complaining he'd been "stung by a bee". The videos, and Heaggan-Brown's statement to state investigators two days later, became central evidence to the state's case.

"But there is no joy in a case like this", said Jonathan Smith's partner, Steven Kohn.

The jury that acquitted Heaggan-Brown consisted of nine women and three men. The sexual assault case was not mentioned during the trial because it is being handled separately and knowledge of it could prejudice the jury. "The guy get out of the driver side and he got a gun and started running".

After the shooting in August, angry demonstrators took to the streets of Milwaukee, setting fires to businesses and throwing rocks at the police.

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