On April 30, 2014, a Milwaukee Police Department (“MPD”) officer shot and killed 31-year-old Dontre Hamilton at Red Arrow Park in downtown Milwaukee. The MPD released the following information about the incident. At around 3:30 P.M., the officer was dispatched to the park after the MPD received a call about Mr. Hamilton. Arriving at the park, the MPD officer found Mr. Hamilton lying on the ground. The officer helped Mr. Hamilton up, and then began speaking to him. As the MPD officer began a pat-down search of Mr. Hamilton, a struggle allegedly ensued. During the struggle, Mr. Hamilton reportedly grabbed the officer’s baton and began to hit the officer in the head. In response, the MPD officer shot Mr. Hamilton, reportedly between 5 and 10 times. Mr. Hamilton died as a result of this tragic incident.
As previously reported here, this incident will be the first test of a new Wisconsin law where law enforcement agencies cannot investigate themselves after a death in police custody. Under the law, a team of at least two investigators from an outside agency will investigate in-custody deaths, and then release reports from the investigation to the public if criminal charges are not filed against the law enforcement officers involved. For the shooting of Mr. Hamilton, the State of Wisconsin Department of Justice will conduct the investigation. According to the family, Mr. Hamilton had a history of mental health issues, including paranoia and schizophrenia. In addition, a barista who works at the Starbucks at Red Arrow Park reported that MPD officers had checked on Mr. Hamilton twice before the fatal shooting, and found that he had been doing nothing illegal.
Witnesses and Mr. Hamilton’s family members dispute some of the fact of this incident as to the conduct of the MPD officer and Mr. Hamilton. As a result, an independent investigation to fully explore the facts of this case is crucial to determine what actually happened. The family confirms that Mr. Hamilton did not have a violent history and his alleged conduct does not make sense to them. Given the reported number of shots fired at Mr. Hamilton and the location of some of the wounds, the family has concerns regarding the officer’s conduct during the incident.
The family of Mr. Hamilton has now retained a legal team, including Samster, Konkel & Safran, S.C. Attorney Jonathan S. Safran. The legal team will attempt to obtain information about Mr. Hamilton’s death. “The family is just trying to get some answers,” Attorney Safran told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “they’ve had really no contact from any of the law enforcement agencies about anything.”