Sylville Smith shooting: body camera footage will not be seen in officer’s trial

Ex-Milwaukee police officer accused of killing Smith during traffic stop waived right to hearing, removing a chance for the public to see footage of the incident

A former Milwaukee police officer accused of killing a black man during a traffic stop waived his right to a preliminary hearing on Friday, thus removing a chance for the public to see body camera footage of the incident.

Dominique Heaggan-Browns attorney, Steven Kohn, waived the hearing and entered a not guilty plea to the charge of felony reckless homicide. Court commissioner Barry Phillips ordered Heaggan-Brown to go to trial during the proceeding, which lasted less than five minutes.

Heaggan-Brown was charged last week in connection with the death of 23-year-old Sylville Smith, in August. The criminal complaint, which alleges Heaggan-Brown fired the fatal shot even though Smith was unarmed, is based largely on footage from body cameras that Heaggan-Brown and his partner were wearing.

District attorney John Chisholm has refused to release the footage, calling it evidence. Outside court on Friday, Chisholm said he had been prepared to play the video if the preliminary hearing had happened. Chisholm added that he handed the footage over to Kohn.

The shooting sparked two nights of riots on Milwaukees predominantly black north side. Demonstrators burned six businesses and a squad car and threw rocks and bottles at police. One man was shot but survived.

According to the criminal complaint, Heaggan-Brown, who is also black, stopped Smiths car on 13 August. Smith tried to run away and Heaggan-Brown and his partner gave chase. The complaint says body camera footage showed Smith was carrying a gun in his hand as he ran.

Smith fell to the ground, got up and raised his gun while facing Heaggan-Brown, according to the complaint. Heaggan-Brown fired and hit Smith in the arm, after which Smith then threw his gun over a fence. Heaggan-Brown told state agents the gun flew out of Smiths hand, the complaint said.

Heaggan-Brown then shot Smith in the chest both shots were fired within two seconds. Heaggan-Brown told agents he thought Smith was reaching for his waistband, although the video shows Smith reaching for his waistband after the second shot and that he was unarmed at that time, according to the documents.

Sedan Smith, Sylville Smiths brother, said on Friday that he wished Chisholm would have played the video.

The public needs to see what type of police we have on the streets today, Sedan Smith said. [The second shot] wasnt an act of fear. If it takes you time to again shoot someone theres a thought that goes into that. Thats premeditated. Thats execution.

Heaggan-Brown was fired in October due to unrelated charges including two counts of sexual assault and two counts of prostitution in a case that is still pending.

According to court documents, Heaggan-Brown and another man went to a bar on 14 August and watched television coverage of the unrest.

The man alleged that Heaggan-Brown bragged that he could do anything he wanted without repercussions, and later woke up to find Heaggan-Brown sexually assaulting him.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/weather/2016/dec/23/sylville-smith-milwaukee-police-body-camera