Officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown had faced up to 60 years in prison on the charge of first-degree reckless homicide for his role in the death of Sylville Smith.
During the trial, Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm argued Heaggan-Brown, who is also black, was not justified in using deadly force when he fired the second and fatal shot Saturday, Aug. 13, 2016.
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Bodycam video showed Heaggan-Brown had fired two shots.
Heaggan-Brown was sacked from the Milwaukee force in October over unrelated sexual assault charges, which are set to go to trial in August. "Black or white, because we all bleed the same, we all hurt the same, and it don't feel good to lose anybody", said Sherelle Smith.
This version of the story corrects the date of the Smith shooting to August 13 from August 23. The following morning Heaggan-Brown reportedly left the man at a Milwaukee area hospital, then text a Police Department superior to say he had made a mistake and wanted "to handle this in the most secret and right way possible". Smith's death sparked days of unrest in Milwaukee. Smith ran from police, carrying a gun, while the former officer was in pursuit.
Heaggan-Brown had previously said he believed Smith "was reaching for his waist so he discharged his weapon a second time". Defense attorneys argued Heaggan-Brown had to act quickly to defend himself. Smith and Heaggan-Brown are both black. They could have opted for second-degree reckless homicide or homicide by negligent operation of a unsafe weapon, but jurors acquitted Heaggan-Brown on those charges, too. Prosecutors argued Smith was defenseless when Heaggan-Brown shot him in the chest because Smith had thrown away his gun.
"Heaggan-Brown fired once at which time he observed the pistol fly out of Smith's hands and over the fence into the backyard of the residence", a criminal complaint states.
The family's attorney, David Owen, said he has filed a lawsuit against Heaggan-Brown and the city of Milwaukee.