A former Milwaukee police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black man was acting in self defense and will not be charged, the district attorney said on Monday, two days after dozens of demonstrators calling for justice in the case were arrested.
Christopher Manney, who was fired from the Milwaukee police force, shot Dontre Hamilton 14 times during a struggle in Red Arrow Park in downtown Milwaukee on April 30, Milwaukee District Attorney John Chisholm said in a statement.
“My decision … does not depreciate the very legitimate concerns raised any time a law enforcement officer uses deadly force against a citizen,” Chisholm said later during a news conference.
Protests had been held in Milwaukee since the incident but none with as many arrests as Friday, when 74 people were taken into custody after an evening demonstration spilled onto a major freeway and stopped traffic during rush hour.
The demonstration was the latest of several against police violence across the country in the wake of recent cases in which unarmed black men were killed by white police officers.
Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn announced the firing of Manney on Oct. 15. He said Manney had acted without malice but that he had failed to follow police policies when addressing mentally ill people.
“It’s very, very hard to charge a police officer with homicide if he does exactly what he is trained to do,” Chisholm said.
Manney told investigators that he found Hamilton, who had a history of mental illness, lying on the ground in the park. After Hamilton stood up, he and the officer got into a fight, according to the statement Manney gave police.
Hamilton took Manney’s baton and hit him in the neck, according to Manney’s statement. Manney then shot Hamilton, according to police.
“He feared Hamilton would attack him with the baton and that he ‘would be dead’ as a result,” the statement said.
The American Civil Liberties Union said in a statement, “The ACLU of Wisconsin regrets District Attorney Chisholm’s decision because it leaves a cloud of uncertainty over the circumstances of and the responsibility for Mr. Hamilton’s death.”
Local media reported that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker had granted a request by local law enforcement officials to deploy National Guard troops in the city if protests became violent.
(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Bill Trott, Toni Reinhold)