Today, District Attorney John Chisholm said former Milwaukee police officer Christopher Manney would not be charged in the shooting of Dontre Hamilton. On April 30, Manney shot Hamilton, who was unarmed, 14 times during an incident at Red Arrow Park in downtown Milwaukee.
In a report released to the public, Chisholm wrote, "[B]ased on all the evidence and analysis presented in this report, I come to the conclusion that Officer Manney's use of force in this incident was justified self-defense and that defense cannot be reasonably overcome to establish a basis to charge Officer Manney with a crime."
But despite Chisholm's belief that self-defense was "justified," the motivation for Hamilton's killing is much less clear.
On April 30, two officers were dispatched to Red Arrow Park where Hamilton was sleeping. The initial complaint, which was called in by an employee at a nearby Starbucks, was handled without any physical confrontation. Ten minutes later—around 1:52 p.m.—the same officers are again dispatched to check on Hamilton, and handle the call without dispute. The two officers decided Hamilton had done nothing wrong or illegal.
Manney later responded to a desk call—not knowing two officers had already spoken to Hamilton—and arrived at the park, where he found Hamilton sleeping. According to the report, an altercation ensued as Manney attempted to perform a routine pat-down. Then, according to MPD Internal Affairs, "Manney tried to use his baton to subdue Hamilton, but Hamilton got control of it and swung it at Manney, hitting him on the side of the neck. Manney then shot Hamilton repeatedly."
In the days and weeks after the fatal shooting, the department was quick to note Hamilton's history of mental illness; but his family refuted those accusations, saying he received treatment and was never physically violent with those around him.
The harsh, unpleasant truth about minorities and high crime rates is that Wisconsin incarcerates a higher percentage of its black men than any other state—and it's not close. A study last year found that 13 percent of working-age black men in the state are in prison or jail, nearly twice the national average.
In Milwaukee? More than half of all black men in their 30s and 40s are or have been locked up, many for non-violent drug offenses.
Hamilton's case—which so far has resulted in the firing of Manney—is the first to fall under Governor Scott Walker's new police custody bill, which requires investigation by an outside agency when individuals die in the custody of law enforcement. But, as the Journal Sentinel uncovered, "[a]t least half of the Department of Justice agents and a top supervisor" investigating Hamilton's death are former Milwaukee police officers, and the question of whether the probe was completely unprejudiced is shaky at best.
The decision not to charge Manney now joins the growing list of police officers who were also believed to be justified in the deaths of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, John Crawford, and others this year.
"I'm tired of coming down here and marching," said longtime Milwaukee resident Marty Horning, who assembled at the park to protest just an hour after the DA's decision. "In one case after another, it appears there is impunity. It's always justified."
[Image via FOX 6]