John and Dorie Heenan watched solemnly as the state Senate approved a bill that would require that Wisconsin police departments use outside investigators to look into officer-involved deaths, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. The measure, which the Assembly passed in February, now goes to Gov. Scott Walker.
The Heenans' son, 30-year-old Paul Heenan, was shot and killed 17 months ago by Officer Stephen Heimsness. Heenan had entered a neighbor's home while drunk, and Heimsness said Heenan reached for the officer's gun when Heimness shot him.
The Madison police department and Dane County district attorney cleared Heimsness of wrongdoing. Heenan's roommates then filed a complaint with the Madison Police and Fire Commission but Heimsness resigned, ending the investigation.
Dorie Heenan said the Legislature's backing of the bill feels like an affirmation that the losses suffered by her family and others in their position were wrong.
Lawmakers are "unsettled with it, too, now - that signifies something big for us," she said.
While she and her husband said the bill is a good first step toward bringing more accountability and transparency to police departments, it still doesn't give them closure for Paul's death.