MILWAUKEE (Reuters) - 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.
The Hamilton family called for the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate. “This is a fight that we are going to endure. We are going to stay strong. We’re not going to waver,” Dontre’s brother Nate Hamilton said.
Protests have been held in Milwaukee since the incident occurred. On Friday, 74 people were taken into custody after an evening demonstration spilled onto a highway and stopped rush hour traffic.
Demonstrations against the use of excessive force by police have been held around the United States in the wake of recent cases in which unarmed black men were killed by white policemen.
“We cannot allow all police officers in this nation and all police officers in this city to be demonized. This is a time for peace,” Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said.
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, Manney’s statement said. 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.
Local media reported Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker 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; Editing by Bill Trott, Toni Reinhold