Family’s joy as panel rules cop who shot mentally ill black man 14 times won’t get job back

A Milwaukee police officer fired last year after he killed a mentally ill black man during a scuffle won’t get his job back, a panel of police commissioners ruled on Monday.

Christopher Manney shot Dontre Hamilton 14 times last April during a confrontation that started with the officer supposedly making a welfare check on the homeless man.

According to Manney, Hamilton, who had been sleeping in a downtown park, grabbed the officer’s baton and attacked him with it.

Department investigators contend Manney couldn’t explain why he felt the need to pat Hamilton down beyond a general belief that homeless and mentally ill people often carry knives. Hamilton had paranoid schizophrenia, but his family has said he wasn’t dangerous.

‘No one suspected him of committing a crime,’ Mark Thomsen, an attorney representing the department, said in closing arguments on Monday. ‘There wasn’t a basis for (the pat-down).’

Thomsen had argued that officers can frisk someone only if they reasonably suspect the person is armed and poses a threat. He maintained that Manney never clearly explained how he felt threatened.

Manney’s attorney had argued that ‘the good of the service’ did not require that the officer be fired.

‘I want to be a cop. It’s who I am. I’ve helped people my whole life,’ Manney told the panel.

Prosecutors’ decision in December not to charge Manney with a crime touched off days of peaceful rallies that saw protesters compare Hamilton’s death to Michael Brown’s fatal shooting at the hands of a white officer in Ferguson, Missouri.

Dontre Hamilton’s brother, Nate Hamilton, told reporters after the panel’s first ruling on Monday that the family was happy with the decision.

‘There’s still more to come,’ he added. ‘I’m just not going to be satisfied until all officers respect us, respect people, respect our constitutional rights.’

The U.S. Justice Department has said it will review the shooting to determine whether it should pursue a federal civil rights prosecution.

Manney, who filed an application for disability retirement two days before he was fired, had testified on Sunday that he thought Hamilton might be under the influence of drugs or alcohol and he believed he might have a weapon.

‘Lots of homeless have knives,’ Manney’s attorney Jonathan Cermele said. While Manney wasn’t certain of what was in a bulge in Hamilton’s clothing, Cermele said, ‘he knew homeless people have a shard of glass, a knife, et cetera.’

Flynn testified on Saturday that Manney’s ‘bad decision-making’ created a chain of events that put him in a position where he had to use deadly force.

A former Milwaukee detective said at the hearing on Monday that Manney did the right thing by trying to frisk Hamilton. Steven Spingola, who now works with TNT’s ‘Cold Justice’ program, said Manney would have been reckless otherwise.

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