Video Shows Off-Duty Milwaukee Police Officer Striking Photographer

Jul 7, 2020

Updated Wednesday at 11:10 a.m. CT

There were various Black Lives Matter marches throughout Milwaukee on Sunday. One march, focused on Black LGBTQ women, made its way downtown and headed west on State Street toward the Milwaukee County Courthouse.

LaTasha Lux, a professional photographer, was there documenting and taking pictures as she has for the past five weeks. So was Sean Kafer, a filmmaker and associate lecturer at UW-Milwaukee.

The march was peaceful until about 5:30 p.m. That's when, according to witnesses, a white woman came out of the Old German Beer Hall on Old World Third Street and started shouting obscenities and racial slurs, and threw a drink at march participants.

Lux says it was then that she jumped into the commotion to take pictures.

“A guy in that group didn't appreciate that and after taking a swipe at one other photographer and breaking the lens off of his camera, he took a swipe at me and my camera," she said in a Facebook video recorded after the incident.

The man who Lux says hit her and her camera, and broke another photographer's lens, is off-duty Milwaukee police officer Matthew Willmann.

In a bystander's video obtained by WUWM, Willmann is seen striking Lux.

According to records obtained by WUWM, Willmann has been on the force since 2001. ACLU documents show that he has at least one prior citizen complaint from 2008 that resulted in disciplinary action. Since 2017, he’s been serving as a drug recognition expert or DRE. This means that Willmann gives expert testimony in operating while intoxicated, or OWI, cases.

Both Lux and Kafer, the photographer whose lens was broken, say they were detained for hours as they gave statements to police.

Their attorney Nicole Muller says Lux's interaction with police who arrived on the scene was problematic.

“She was told that if she wanted to give her statement she needed to go in a police vehicle. Lux was scared for her life,” says Muller.

Over five hours after the incident, Kafer was issued a citation for disorderly conduct. The language on the citation states, “Known actor [Kafer], intentionally and without consent caused a disturbance on a city of Milwaukee Street.”

Off-duty officer Willmann is said to have been issued a citation for vandalism. No charges or arrests were made.

The woman who allegedly incited the disorder by taunting protesters and throwing her drink was not cited. 

The Milwaukee Police Department says it is investigating the incident involving Willmann.

"The off-duty member and a family member were involved in an incident with protesters. This incident is under review. There is no further information at this time," MPD said in a statement.

The Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office did not respond to a request for comment. The Milwaukee Police Association says it is aware of the incident, but the union declined to issue a statement at this time.

Editor's note: Since publication, Old German Beer Hall owner Hans Weissgerber III reached out to WUWM and said the two individuals involved in Sunday's incident "left our establishment an hour before the incident and were on the patio of the Milwaukee Brat House. The aftermath of their idiocy landed them on our doorstep."

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