MILWAUKEE – Closing arguments are set for Tuesday in the trial of a former Milwaukee police officer charged in a fatal shooting that ignited riots last year in the majority black neighborhood where it transpired.
The death of Sylville Smith at the hands of Dominique Heaggan-Brown on Aug. 13 angered Sherman Park residents and highlighted the strained relationship between police and African-Americans in the city. But the case is different from recent high-profile police shootings that have inspired a national conversation about how officers interact with African-Americans: Heaggan-Brown and Smith are both black and from the north side of the city where the shooting occurred.
Prosecutors charged Heaggan-Brown with first-degree reckless homicide, arguing the former officer didn’t need to use deadly force against Smith, who had thrown away the gun he was carrying.
But a police expert in the use of deadly force testified Monday that Heaggan-Brown “acted in accordance with his training.”
“From what (Heaggan-Brown) knew, he was presented with a deadly threat and responded,” said Robert Willis, who has trained police officers and wrote Wisconsin’s Defensive and Arrest Tactics Manual.
The fatal encounter between Heaggan-Brown and Smith happened in the span of 12 seconds and was captured by police body cameras.