A jury in Milwaukee has acquitted former officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown of a reckless homicide charge over the fatal shooting of Sylville Smith last August. The killing sparked two days of protests on the city’s north side.
The jury, which had been in sequestration since June 13, debated for over nine hours before reaching a not-guilty verdict Wednesday.
In August 2016, Smith was shot to death by then-officer Heaggan-Brown during a foot chase in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Heaggan-Brown was charged in December with first-degree reckless homicide.
He was later arrested on unrelated sexual assault charges after meeting a man in a bar on the night of the protests following the Smith’s killing. He was officially let go by the Milwaukee police department on October 31, 2016, according to WITI.
The events unfolded on August 13 at 3:30pm when Heaggan-Brown and his partner at the time, Ndiva Malafa, pulled over Smith and another man under suspicion of drug activity. Smith reportedly ran immediately after the officers exited their vehicle.
Smith headed for a yard that had a chain link fence and hurled his gun over just as Heaggan-Brown fired his gun at Smith.
Heaggan-Brown’s first shot struck Smith’s arm, grounding him. The officer then fired a second shot through Smith’s chest as he lie on the ground. The shot pierced Smith’s lung and heart. The way the bullet hit Smith was described by doctors as “not survivable.”
During the case, one prosecutor argued that Smith was shot by Heaggan-Brown after he tried to surrender. He believes the second shot was unreasonable.
“Mr. Heaggan-Brown knew at the time that he fired that second shot that Sylville Smith had attempted to disarm himself,” said Milwaukee County District Attorney, John Chisolm, according to WISN.
Heaggan-Brown’s attorney said that his client was simply protecting himself and his partner at the time.
The protests against Heaggan-Brown played out mostly on the north side in the Sherman neighborhood of Milwaukee.