Milwaukee Community Leaders Want Body Camera Video of Fatal Police Shooting Released

Aug 18, 2016

UPDATE: Sylville Smith was shot once in the chest and once in the arm, according to the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner. Those autopsy results seem to correspond with city leaders' account that Smith had turned toward the officer who fatally shot him. Police say the 23-year-old was armed and fleeing after a traffic stop.

ORIGINAL STORY: Community leaders in Milwaukee say residents and the family of Sylville Smith need to see the truth, as a body camera video may reveal. An officer was wearing it last Saturday when he fatally shot the 23-year-old man in the Sherman Park neighborhood, sparking violence. Attorney General Brad Schimel says he wants his agency to complete its investigation as 'expeditiously' as possible, in order to provide answers. The agency has set up an anonymous tip-line for anyone with information about the shooting. 

While things have been calm this week, Martha De La Rosa of  Wisconsin Jobs Now says investigators need to release the video.

It’s believed to show the interaction between Smith and the officer who shot him to death and was wearing the camera.

“We no way want to complicate the DOJ investigation, but it’s imperative, that this is transparent with the family and the community for this case. Without transparency and the release of the body cam video, this community cannot, I repeat, this community cannot fully work to heal and move forward in a positive way,” De La Rosa says. “The public, the investigators, everybody has an interest in what happens to the evidence that may be on the body worn camera video.”

Chris Ahmuty is with the ACLU of Wisconsin. He says there are two questions that peak his interest about the video that the police department handed over to state investigators.

“One is the chain of custody. What happened to that camera? Is the video tampered with? Is it being used to move the investigation forward? The other issue is public access. After the family gets to see the video, when will the public get to see it? Will it get to see it completely without anything edited out?,” Ahmuty says.

Ahmuty says there are also questions investigators could answer now. For example, was the officer was allowed to review the tape before putting together his report on the killing? Ahmuty says Chicago is a great example as to why public leaders here should release the video as soon as possible.

“They waited over a year to release the dashcam video in the killing in Chicago and it contradicted everything that they’d been saying for over a year. That in our view is the worst case situation,” Ahmuty says.

Martha De La Rosa says conversations are taking place about what leaders should put in place, once the video is released.

“Possibly asking for the National Guard not to be deployed. Once they were brought into the equation, emotions got even higher. Once the curfew was set, emotions got even higher. So what are some of the solutions to diffuse the situation?” she says.

De La Rosa says, for her, this is personal. She says she’s the mother of two boys, and she cannot imagine what Smith’s family is going through.

The Milwaukee Police Department declined to comment for this story because the investigation is ongoing. The Department of Criminal Investigations, the organization looking into the matter, did not respond to our request for comment.