Former Milwaukee officer won’t be charged in fatal shooting of Dontre Hamilton

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Dontre Hamilton. Photo credit: WITI

Dontre Hamilton. Photo credit: WITI

Milwaukee, WI (WITI) — The Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office released a report on Monday morning, December 22nd that indicates former Milwaukee Police Officer Christopher Manney’s “use of force” in the shooting death of 31-year-old Dontre Hamilton was “justified self-defense and that defense cannot be reasonably overcome to establish a basis to charge Officer Manney with a crime.”

On April 30th, Hamilton was sleeping in Red Arrow Park. Then-Officer Christopher Manney was performing a welfare check, and police say Hamilton grabbed Manney’s baton and struck him with it. That’s when Christopher Manney opened fire, shooting Hamilton 14 times.

Christopher Manney. Photo credit: WITI

Christopher Manney. Photo credit: WITI

Manney has already been fired for action leading up to the shooting of Hamilton – and he is appealing his termination.

CLICK HERE to read complete report released by the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office. 

In the report released Monday, Chisholm concluded the following:

“After reviewing all the evidence, I believe there can be little serious doubt that P.O. Manney was justified in firing at Dontre Hamilton, who was attacking him with a deadly weapon (baton). The more difficult issue is whether P.O. Manney fired more shots than necessary, or continued firing after he could reasonably perceive that Hamilton was clearly no longer a threat.

“It does not appear to me, based on all the evidence I have reviewed, that P.O. Manney continued firing after the point in time when a hypothetical “reasonable officer at the scene” under the totality of the circumstances existing in this case, would have stopped firing. The use of deadly force against Dontre Hamilton was not a choice P.O. Manney made voluntarily, but was instead a defensive action forced upon him by Dontre Hamilton’s deadly attack with a police baton.”

As part of the report released on Monday, District Attorney John Chisholm consulted with a national use of force expert, Emanuel Kapelsohn of the Peregrine Corporation. Kapelsohn was given access to all materials in this investigation – concluded the following:

“After reviewing all the evidence, I believe there can be little serious doubt that P.O. Manney was justified in firing at Dontre Hamilton, who was attacking him with a deadly weapon (baton). The more difficult issue is whether P.O. Manney fired more shots than necessary, or continued firing after he could reasonably perceive that Hamilton was clearly no longer a threat. Police officers in Milwaukee and throughout the United States are trained to fire to “stop the threat”. The 13 or 14 shots fired by P.O. Manney would, in all likelihood, have been fired in roughly 3 to 4 seconds total elapsed time, from first shot to last. The wound locations and wound paths through the deceased’s body are consistent with shots fired at an attacker who is first advancing toward the officer, then turning and falling. While, as can be expected, the many witnesses to this event give varying accounts of what they saw and heard, several witnesses with the best, closest views of what occurred have stated that P.O. Manney stopped firing when Hamilton fell to the ground, and Manney did not continue firing after that point. This is consistent with P.O. Manney’s own statement of what occurred. I find no physical evidence to prove otherwise, including information from the autopsy report, as confirmed by my own meeting and discussions with the doctor who performed the autopsy. Reaction time is needed to for an officer to stop firing a rapid series of shots when the officer perceives that an attacker has been “stopped” and then is falling. It does not appear to me, based on all the evidence I have reviewed, that P.O. Manney continued firing after the point in time when a hypothetical “reasonable officer at the scene” under the totality of the circumstances existing in this case, would have stopped firing. The use of deadly force against Dontre Hamilton was not a choice P.O. Manney made voluntarily, but was instead a defensive action forced upon him by Dontre Hamilton’s deadly attack with a police baton.”

Manney’s statement is included in the report released by the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office. In the statement, he says the following:

“As he attempted to place his hands on Hamilton, Hamilton trapped Manney’s hands between his arms and body. Mr. Hamilton then twisted away from Manney so that he directly faced Manney and had his right hand balled in a fist. Officer Manney states that he tried to disengage and told Hamilton it was not worth it. At that point, Hamilton lunged at him and tried to strike him with a fist. Officer Manney blocked the punch and struck Hamilton with an open palm to the chin. This had no immediate effect on Hamilton. Hamilton then grabbed Manney in the shoulder area, pulled him towards him and struck him (Manney) in the right head area. Manney felt he was losing control and decided to escalate to his intermediate weapon, a wooden baton. Manney indicates that he chose the baton and not his OC spray because the OC spray was located on the right side of his belt and he was using his right arm to protect himself from strikes. While doing so he was issuing commands to Hamilton to stop resisting. Manney separated from Hamilton, removed his baton with his left hand and transferred it to his right hand. When Hamilton continued to be aggressive, Manney struck him once in the rib area with the baton. Manney states that Hamilton trapped his baton between his arms and his torso and spun away from Manney. Manney attempted to retain control of his baton but could not. Manney then attempted to disengage with Hamilton and attempted to hit the emergency button on his radio but could not because of the on-going struggle. Manney states that he felt he was out of options and that he had to escalate to drawing his weapon in the hope that Hamilton would stop. Manney states that he pushed away from Hamilton and was trying to draw his weapon when he felt a baton blow from Hamilton to his right neck area. Hamilton continued to advance on Manney, and Manney pushed away from Hamilton with his left arm and pointed his firearm with one hand at Hamilton’s chest area. As Hamilton continued to approach with Manney’s baton, and as Manney had his weapon drawn and pointed at Hamilton, Manney states that he feared Hamilton would attack him with the baton and that he “would be dead” as a result.

“Manney fired his weapon but it did not seem to have any effect on Hamilton, so he continued to fire while walking backwards from Hamilton. Hamilton fell forward and Manney continued to fire because he perceived Hamilton still to be a threat. He stopped firing when Hamilton was completely on the ground.”

The attorney for Hamilton’s family released on Monday, December 1st Dontre Hamilton’s autopsy report, toxicology report and cause of death. The autopsy report lists 21 gunshot wounds – and that includes entry and exit wounds. Hamilton’s death was ruled a homicide by the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office. That ruling means Hamilton died at the hands of another. A toxicology report released with the autopsy report shows there were no drugs in Hamilton’s system when he died.

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7 comments

  • smitty

    Officer Manney was just doing his job when he was attacked, Milwaukee needs to reinstate Officer Manney’s job with back pay and an apology from the city.

    • Riversong

      Officer Manney violated police procedures and turned a welfare check into a fatal confrontation. He should not only have been fired, but indicted for voluntary manslaughter.

  • Susan

    So, now, batons are “deadly weapons”? So, if a cop hits me with a baton when I’m not doing anything, I am justified in trying to kill him?

  • John

    I completely agree with Smitty. Manney was doing his job when we was assaulted by a criminal! We are doing a huge disservice to the people that protect us by making them afraid to do their own jobs. Stop this now! Let the police do what they need to do to keep us safe!

    • Riversong

      This was a welfare check on a civilian. There was no report of criminal activity and two other police officers had already determined that Hamilton posed no threat to anyone.

      Officer Manney was not only unfit to wear a badge but should have been indicted for voluntary manslaughter.

  • Riversong

    For an officer whose immediate radio report indicated he didn’t even know whether he was struck with his baton, he certainly regained an incredibly detailed memory of the incident – memories which entirely justified his brutal and excessive use of force during a welfare check.

    This “recovered memory” syndrome (which psychologists have proven to be nothing more than the result of coaching or implanted “memories”) is typical of such officers involved in questionable civilian killings.

    Officer Darren Wilson, the killer of Michael Brown, similarly “evolved” his story from his initial interviews to his elaborate and entirely self-justifying testimony to the grand jury – which utter failed to challenge him on his inconsistencies.