MILWAUKEE (AP) – A Milwaukee police officer who shot a man as many as 15 times in a downtown park should be charged with homicide, the victim’s family told reporters Monday, shortly after being briefed on the investigation by a prosecutor and detectives.
The family has been waiting for answers since April 30, when the officer killed Dontre Hamilton following a scuffle. Prosecutors haven’t yet decided whether to charge the officer, whose name hasn’t been released, but Monday’s meeting provided the family with a few more details from the ongoing investigation.
Some details are undisputed. Hamilton, 31, was sleeping in a park across the street from City Hall on a weekday afternoon. The officer, responding to a call, came to investigate, and when a pat-down turned into a scuffle, the officer shot and killed Hamilton.
Dontre’s brother, Nathaniel Hamilton Jr., said the family had been given more details from witness accounts that suggest the officer may not have been acting in self-defense when he used lethal force.
For example, in the hours following the shooting, Police Chief Ed Flynn told reporters Hamilton grabbed the officer’s wooden baton and struck the officer in the head, injuring him. But Nathaniel Hamilton said the family was shown photographs of the officer, who appeared unhurt except for a small cut on his finger.
Hamilton also said his brother had bruises on his arms as though the officer had beaten him, and that witness reports were conflicting on whether Dontre actually swung the baton.
After Dontre Hamilton took the baton, the officer stepped back and said, “So you want to fight?” said Nathaniel Hamilton, citing what investigators told the family. The officer then shot Hamilton 15 times – in the neck, upper chest, back, abdomen and forearm – even when Hamilton was on the ground, Nathaniel Hamilton said.
“We just feel like my brother was murdered that day,” Hamilton said.
Milwaukee police referred a request for comment to the state Department of Justice, which said it couldn’t comment while the investigation remains open.
The shooting was the first since the passage of a state law mandating that officer-involved shootings be investigated by an outside agency. The Department of Criminal Investigation, a part of the state Department of Justice, took the lead.
However, the family’s attorneys said all 62 witness interviews were conducted by the Milwaukee Police Department, with just a handful reviewed or overseen by the state authorities.
“We believe that would be contrary to the law,” attorney Jonathan Safran said.