As previously reported on this Blog here, Derek Williams died in Milwaukee Police Department (“MPD”) custody in July 2011. The troubling video from the incident shows Mr. Williams in the back of an MPD squad car as he spent the last minutes of his life struggling to breathe and begging MPD officers for help. The MPD did not discipline any officers involved. The Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office declined to charge any officers. Even though an Inquest jury recommended state criminal charges against three officers, an appointed special prosecutor chose not to pursue those criminal charges.

On Tuesday, May 28, 2013, the United States Attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Wisconsin announced that it would not file federal criminal charges against any MPD officers involved in Derek Williams’ death. According to United States Attorney James Santelle, there will be no federal charges, in part because the “investigation did not reveal evidence that the officers had notice of Mr. Williams’ medical need, and the officers stated that they did not know he had a medical need.” Even though there will be no federal charges for the death of Mr. Williams, the United States Department of Justice (“DOJ”) is still considering whether to conduct a review of the MPD to see if there is a pattern and practice of civil rights violations committed by MPD officers. Read more about the Derek Williams case in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel here.

The Milwaukee civil rights lawyers of Samster, Konkel & Safran, S.C. represent the three young children of Derek Williams, along with their mother. SKS Attorney Jonathan S. Safran expressed the family’s disappointment in the decision not to file federal criminal charges against the MPD officers involved in the death of Mr. Williams. “The family was very, very upset. They were crying and felt again great disappointment,” Attorney Safran told the Journal Sentinel. We will now wait to see if the City of Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission conducts an independent review of this matter, as requested, to determine whether any disciplinary action should be taken against any of the MPD officers involved. We will then discuss with our clients the pursuit of civil claims on behalf of our clients, so there may still be justice and accountability for the death of Derek Williams. We also hope that the DOJ pursues a pattern and practice investigation of the MPD, to hopefully ensure that future tragedies do not occur.