A lawyer representing the family of an African-American mentally ill man who was shot and killed by a white police officer in Milwaukee said this week that the autopsy report had called the shooting into question.
Earlier this year, then-Officer Christopher Manney had confronted 31-year-old Dontre Hamilton for sleeping in a park, even though other officers had determined that Hamilton had done nothing wrong. Police said at the time that the confrontation escalated into a struggle when Hamilton grabbed Manney’s baton and began hitting the officer with it.
Police Chief Edward Flynn fired Manney for ignoring department rules about dealing with emotionally disturbed people, but refused to prosecute the officer for “making mistakes” after he shot Hamilton 14 times.
On Monday, Hamilton family attorney Jonathan Safran revealed details of the autopsy for the first time.
“Dontre did have blunt force trauma injuries to his head and face,” Safran said. “We wanted there to be more evidence about the 14 shots that were fired. Seven of those would appear to be in a downward direction based upon the medical examiner’s report. One of the shots being into Dontre’s back.”
Safran explained that the family released the autopsy results after waiting months for the police to do it, and continuing to hear distortions about facts in the case.
“The family has wanted to get (the autopsy report) out for some time. We’ve held off on doing that, hoping again that there would be a decision by the District Attorney,” Safran told WITI. “It’s now been seven months. The family continues to hear mischaracterizations of the facts. (Dontre Hamilton)’s a person that is my size. He’s 5’6? or 5’7? weighing 169 pounds. Not a large person. It does not jive with how Manney described Dontre.”
“The fact there is no stippling or gun residue on Dontre Hamilton’s body would reflect that there was some distance,” he added. “I’m not a forensic expert — probably at least three feet or so at the minimum. The wounds show that at least half of them were in a downward direction, even though they were both supposedly standing. There’s one that reflects it was shot into Dontre Hamilton’s back.”
While the case has been compared to the Michael Brown killing in Missouri, Safran said that there was at least one difference.
“There’s nothing that Dontre Hamilton did, anything criminal, anything wrong before this incident occurred, (which is) somewhat different than what has been described with Michael Brown in Ferguson,” he observed.
Seven months after the shooting, the District Attorney’s Office has said that it is still determining whether or not to charge Manney.
“We think there is sufficient evidence there should be state criminal charges,” Safran insisted.
Watch the video below from WITI, broadcast Dec. 3, 2014.