Parents of Milwaukee Police Victim Can Seek Damages

MILWAUKEE (CN) — The Milwaukee police officer who shot Dontre Hamilton 14 times in 2014, killing him, violated Hamilton’s constitutional rights by illegally patting him down for weapons, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

Hamilton’s mother and son sued Christopher Manney and the city of Milwaukee in April 2016. According to the complaint, the Milwaukee Police Department dispatched officers to Red Arrow Park, where Hamilton was sleeping, to conduct a welfare check on April 30, 2014.

Officers checked on Hamilton twice in the afternoon, and the interactions ended without incident, the complaint states. The officers determined that Hamilton was “not doing anything wrong” and said as much to the Starbucks employees who’d called them.

Nonetheless, Manney informed dispatch that he was going to respond to a call about “trouble with a suspect,” even though it had been confirmed with dispatch that there were no pending assignments at Red Arrow Park, Hamilton’s wife said in the lawsuit.

Hamilton complied with Manney’s orders, and Manney frisked him, though he had no reason to believe Hamilton was armed or had committed a crime, according to the lawsuit. While patting him down, Manney hit Hamilton with his police baton, according to the complaint.

Hamilton grabbed the baton and Manney backed away. “So, you want to fight,” Manney said, according to the complaint; then he shot Hamilton 14 times.

Manney, a 13-year MPD veteran, was fired in October 2016 for failing to follow police procedure in frisking Hamilton, according to U.S. District Judge J.P. Stadmueller’s Wednesday order.

Stadmueller’s ruling entitles Hamilton’s estate to seek damages. It specifically addressed the estate’s second cause of action: that Manney unreasonably searched Hamilton before killing him.

The estate’s other three remaining claims will be determined by a jury, including unlawful detention, excessive force against Manney, and failure to train against the city, specifically relating to encounters with mentally ill people, the order states.

Attorney Susan Lappen, representing Milwaukee and Manney, said in a statement, “The decision is currently under review by this office. As a matter of general policy, we do not comment further on pending litigation matters.”

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