A Milwaukee County jury has found Dominique Heaggan-Brown not guilty of homicide in the shooting death of Sylville Smith.
During jury instructions, the judge told the jurors they could consider lesser charges if they did not find him guilty of first-degree reckless homicide.
The other two options were:
–Second-degree reckless homicide, which carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison.
— Homicide by negligent operation of a dangerous weapon, which carries a five year prison sentence.
The shooting, which happened Aug. 13, ignited riots in Milwaukee’s Sherman Park neighborhood.
The jury got the case just before midday Tuesday following closing arguments from both sides.
Prosecutors said the first shot fired by Heaggan-Brown was justifiable, but the second shot, just 1.69 seconds later, was not, because by then, Smith had dropped or tossed his gun away.
“Mr. Heaggan-Brown knew at the time he fired that second shot that Sylville Smith had already disarmed himself. He knew that Sylville Smith was attempting to surrender,” Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm said.
But Heaggan-Brown’s defense argued he was acting as he was trained and only fired to protect himself and another officer.
“The state admits that the first shot was a justified shot. And our argument is that justification did not change over the course of 1.69 seconds between shots,” defense attorney Jonathan Smith said.
The death of Smith at the hands of Heaggan-Brown on Aug. 13 angered Sherman Park residents and highlighted the strained relationship between police and African-Americans in the city. But the case is different from recent high-profile police shootings that have inspired a national conversation about how officers interact with African-Americans: Heaggan-Brown and Smith are both black and from the north side of the city where the shooting occurred.
Prosecutors charged Heaggan-Brown with first-degree reckless homicide,…