Update on a police shooting in Milwaukee

Sylville Smith was murdered by a police officer named Dominique Heaggan-Brown on August 13th. Since then, it appears the story has largely fallen off the national radar. Heaggan-Brown was arrested last week, but not for the murder and currently faces two charges of 2nd Degree Sexual Assault and two charges of Solicitation.

For the most part, these allegations have nothing to do with the murder, except for a few highlights. Most notably, prior to his arrest he texted the following to a sergeant, believed to be a mentor-like figure for Heaggan-Brown:

Need your help big time but need to handle this the most secret and right way possible.”

Hmmm. It almost seems as if there’s an unofficial system in place for mitigating legal problems for police officers.

Also noteworthy is that Heaggan-Brown was not in hiding, fearing for his life, as the police maintained. No, he was spending time at bars and alleged to have bragged about being able to get away with murder:

Prosecutors said the man — identified as Adult Victim 1 — said Heaggan-Brown bragged about being able to do whatever he wanted without repercussions.”

All of this adds new wrinkles to the ongoing investigation. There are still many unanswered questions about what happened on the day of the shooting. In the immediate aftermath, the police and mayor claimed there was unequivocal video evidence that Sylville was armed and pointing a gun at the officer. Later, once the unrest had died down, it was admitted that the footage was “ambiguous, [and] difficult to interpret.” The video still has not been released, and won’t be until the District Attorney decides not to file charges, because of course he won’t.

It seems as if the police are not willing or able to sweep these new allegations under the rug. It could signify they’ve turned their backs on Heaggan-Brown. On the other hand, no one should be surprised if he’s not arrested for the murder. After all, he is still a police officer and part of an institution that believes they have the right to murder whomever they deem a threat.


  1. sonofrojblake says

    an institution that believes they have the right to murder whomever they deem a threat.

    I believe that if you deem someone a threat to your life you have the right to self defence up to and including use of deadly force. I believe it because the law says it’s so, whether you’re a police officer or not. Obviously police officers get put in that position way more often than the average citizen, but it’s a right every citizen has. Or don’t you believe that?

    What’s at issue is the reasonableness of the belief of threat and how keenly it is tested. “You’re a cop who shot a black guy? Fill in form RJ/17 please. Oh, you’re just some white guy who shot a black guy? Well, do you have a licence for that firearm sir? You do? Oh, well, that’s fine, sorry to have inconvenienced you. Oh, you’re a black guy who shot a white guy? Down on the ground, NOW!”

  2. forgiven says

    Pretty much. There’s always an issue of whether or not one’s belief in imminent mortal danger is justified, as you said. Until recently the police have been able to claim this with little scrutiny. If there weren’t bystander video evidence, the cop who shot Walter Scott would probably have gotten away with his fabricated story and be back on the job.

  3. intransitive says

    This case makes me ask again a question I have said many times before: Would Heaggan-Brown be in a jail cell or been charged yet if he were white?

    White cops facing equally serious charges have, time and again, been “suspended with pay” or on “desk duty”, or if they were charged, released and not locked up while awaiting trial (e.g. 20+ serial rapist cops in Oakland, Cleveland, New York, Ferguson, ad nauseum) while non-white cops face much stiffer charges, suspensions and loss of pay. The treatment of non-white criminal cops by white cops mirrors the attitude of white cops to non-white civilians. Except for the lack of bullets.