Political News

Former Milwaukee officer subject of multiple investigations

Posted April 19

— A former police officer whose fatal shooting of a black man sparked riots in Milwaukee last summer was the subject of multiple internal investigations during his short career, according to his recently released personnel file.

The Milwaukee Police Department released Dominique Heaggan-Brown's file to The Associated Press through an open records request. The documents show most of the allegations against him were relatively minor and were resolved with orders to review department ethics policies.

But the file also suggests early concerns about his judgment, years before he was charged with reckless homicide in last year's shooting and sexual assault in a separate case.

Milwaukee police spokesman Tim Guaerke didn't immediately respond to an email message seeking comment about the file. Heaggan-Brown's attorney, Johnathan Smith, also didn't immediately respond to an email.

Heaggan-Brown, now 25, joined the Milwaukee Police Department as an aide in July 2010. In December 2011, a Milwaukee officer cited him for speeding and not wearing a seatbelt. The documents indicate he was traveling 80 miles per hour in a 50 mph zone while he was off-duty.

The officer later voided the citations, saying he gave Heaggan-Brown a break because he was a young department aide. Heaggan-Brown wrote to his superiors promising he wouldn't be caught speeding again. Two days after the stop, he was cited again for speeding, this time for driving 74 mph in a 55 mph zone. Heaggan-Brown pleaded guilty, and wrote to his superiors he wasn't watching his speedometer and didn't think he was going that fast.

In November 2012, officers searched Heaggan-Brown's residence while investigating a report of shots fired. Officers encountered about a dozen people in the residence — Heaggan-Brown wasn't there — and a strong odor of marijuana. The search didn't yield firearms or drugs, but three people were arrested. Heaggan-Brown was counseled on policies requiring department employees to avoid associating with people who could affect their integrity.

The following year investigators looked into allegations that a YouTube video showed Heaggan-Brown in uniform entering an apartment with a bong on top of a refrigerator. Investigators determined the video didn't show illegal or offensive activity. Heaggan-Brown told them an entertainment company producer was making a commercial and he didn't know his image would be used.

An investigation that culminated in March 2014 concluded that Heaggan-Brown had been living with a convicted felon — his sister. Investigators learned the two were roommates while looking into the theft of Heaggan-Brown's personal firearm from his closet. Investigators reviewed ethics policies with Heaggan-Brown again and let it go because he was no longer living with her.

In September 2015, officers noticed a photograph on an alleged gang member's website that showed Heaggan-Brown posing with three men displaying apparent gang signs. Heaggan-Brown said the photo was taken in 2012, when he was a police aide, and he didn't know what the signs meant. Investigators recommended Heaggan-Brown again review ethics policies.

Heaggan-Brown, who is also black, fatally shot 23-year-old Sylville Smith last August during a foot chase on Milwaukee's north side. During the chase, Smith turned toward Heaggan-Brown with a gun but threw it away after Heaggan-Brown shot him in the arm. Investigators said Smith was unarmed when Heaggan-Brown fired a fatal second shot.

The shooting sparked two nights of violence and looting in the neighborhood where Smith was killed.

Heaggan-Brown was fired in October after he was charged with sexual assault in a separate case. Prosecutors charged him with reckless homicide in Smith's death in December.

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Follow Todd Richmond on Twitter at https://twitter.com/trichmond1

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