Jurors deliberate for a second day in Milwaukee ex-cop trial

A Milwaukee County jury has found former Milwaukee police officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown not guilty in the 2016 shooting of Sylville Smith, whose death sparked several nights of violence in the city's Sherman Park neighborhood. 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. A second shot struck Smith in the chest while he was on the ground.

Smith's death at the hands of Heaggan-Brown on August 13 sparked two nights of rioting in the Sherman Park neighborhood and highlighted the strained relationship between police and African-Americans in the city.

On Oct. 31, Heaggan-Brown was sacked from the Milwaukee Police Department for a separate incident involving sexual assault allegations against him.

Attorneys for a former Milwaukee police officer acquitted in the fatal shooting of a black man say the officer always believed he was justified in using deadly force.

"Mr. Heaggan-Brown knew at the time he fired that second shot that Sylville Smith had already disarmed himself", Chisholm told the jury, WISN-TV reported. If convicted he could face 60-years in prison. The sexual assault case wasn't mentioned during the trial because it's being tried separately.

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"This guy is somebody we now know was engaged in all sorts of criminal conduct, shouldn't have been there", the Smith family attorney, David Owens, told reporters after the verdict. Jurors are also being given the option to choose from two lesser charges instead — second-degree reckless homicide and homicide by negligent operation of a unsafe weapon.

Last August, then-Milwaukee Police Department Officer Heaggan-Brown and another officer approached Smith over suspicions that he was involved in a drug deal.

Smith's shooting was among a string of killings of blacks by police in recent years that have increased debate about race and policing. Heaggan-Brown and two officers were making their way back to their district station when they made a decision to initiate one last traffic stop.

Data shows 82 officers nationwide have been charged with murder or manslaughter for on-duty fatal shootings since 2005, said Philip Stinson, a criminologist at Ohio's Bowling Green State University. After the second shot, Smith's arms and legs are still moving and he appears to bring his left hand toward his waistband. Smith had a gun but had tossed it over a fence just before Heaggan-Brown's second shot hit him in the chest. Smith, who was armed with a handgun, ran from the officers until he reached a fence. The trial judge is also allowing jurors to consider two lesser charges: second-degree reckless homicide, and reckless use of a firearm.

The 12-member jury included four African-Americans.

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