Home / National News / Former Milwaukee Police Officer Charged in Fatal Shooting of Sylville Smith


(MILWAUKEE) — The former Milwaukee police officer accused of fatally shooting Sylville Smith, a man whose family said battled mental health issues, was charged Thursday with first-degree reckless homicide.

Dominique Heaggan-Brown is accused of the shooting death of Smith on Saturday, Aug. 13.

Milwaukee police tussled with protesters throughout the weekend of Smith’s death, as the Sherman Park neighborhood of Milwaukee where the shooting occurred became a flash-point for anger in the city.

Protesters set several businesses and police cars on fire, hurled bricks through police car windows, threw rocks at officers, and vandalized bus shelters and streetlights. The Wisconsin National Guard was activated in response to the unrest.

Dozens were arrested during the protests, which became known as the #MilwaukeeUprising on social media.

At one point, police accused the Revolutionary Communist Party, a left wing group, of inciting the violence. Carl Dix, a media representative for the group, told ABC News at the time that they were being used as a scapegoat, and that the people of Milwaukee were “rising up” long before they arrived at the protests.

Christopher Ahmuty, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, told ABC News in a phone interview at the time that tensions between police and the community had a significant history behind them prior to Smith’s death.

“Milwaukee suffers from endemic tension between citizens and police that goes back at least 50 years,” he said then.

Ahmuty referred to the city’s racial dynamic as being “segregated,” a word that was frequently employed by analysts in the wake of the discord that occurred over the summer. Milwaukee is the most segregated major city between black and white residents, according to a 2015-2016 City of Milwaukee community health assessment, conducted by the city’s health department based on U.S. Census data.

The death of Smith occurred in the wake of the July deaths of Alton Sterling of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile, of Falcon Heights, Minnesota — two high-profile police shootings that rocked the country, and heightened an atmosphere of tension between police and the black community throughout the country.

In September, the shooting deaths of Terence Crutcher of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Keith Lamont Scott, of Charlotte, North Carolina, followed Smith’s death, and helped to make the issues of race and “law and order” central in the 2016 presidential election.

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