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Milwaukee Police Shooting: Why Hasn’t the DA Decided Yet Whether to Charge Officer?

Dontre - Never Forget, Facebook

For months, protesters have been calling for charges in the death of Dontre Hamilton.

Hamilton was the black man who was shot 14 times by a white Milwaukee police officer in Red Arrow Park last April.

MPD Chief Edward Flynn fired Manney for not following police procedure in the interaction with Hamilton, which preceded the fatal shooting. Manney is appealing his firing.

Meanwhile, Hamilton’s family and others are pressing Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm to charge Manney with a crime.

UW-Milwaukee criminal justice expert Stan Stojkovic told WUWM there are reasons Chisholm is taking his time in deciding whether to charge Manney.

“John Chisholm, I think, is very meticulous, and he wants all the evidence. There’s witness testimony, there’s physical evidence, there’s the autopsy reports, obviously," Stojkovic says. "And then you have to process all that information and it’s not a sequential process. They overlap, and it can be very, very difficult to come to a quick conclusion."

"Having said that, it has been a long time, and I would expect that there is going to be a decision made fairly soon about whether or not to charge this officer in the death of Mr. Hamilton," he adds.

Stojkovic believes Chisholm wants to be as confident as possible in his decision before announcing it to the public. Chisholm knows he will have to be able to defend his choice, Stojkovic says .

“John Chisholm has an obligation as the district attorney to explain to people in clear terms the rationale for whatever his decision may be," he says. "The less understanding that people have about how he came to the conclusion that he will ultimately come to, the more consternation, the more upset people get, the more possibility for things to go awry in the communities, that nobody wants to see."

Stojkovic says the people who’ve been calling for criminal charges are doing so without the benefit of seeing all the evidence. In addition, he says they might not understand the issues Chisholm must consider when determining whether Manney committed a crime.

“Most people don’t understand that when a police officer is trained to use his or her weapon, they’re trained to put the threat down," he says. "And that is where there’s a lot of misunderstanding that people have, [asking] why didn’t he just shoot him in the leg, or why didn’t he just shoot him once? Well, that’s a tough call to make, especially when you have literally a few seconds to make that decision.”

In the event that the district attorney chooses not to charge Manney, Stojkovic says the case might not come to an end at that point. He says the federal government may step in to pursue civil rights violations. In addition, Hamilton’s family could pursue a wrongful death claim in the civil system.

Ann-Elise is WUWM's news director.
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