The white Milwuakee officer fired from his job after fatally shooting a mentally ill Black man in 2014 has lost an appeal to get his job back — for the second time.
According to the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, Circuit Judge Richard J. Sankovitz agreed with the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission’s decision to uphold the termination of Officer Christopher Manney following the deadly shooting of Dontre Hamilton.
Police Chief Edward Flynn fired Manney for his actions that led to the shooting, not for the shooting itself. The police chief said Manney performed an “out-of-policy pat down,” which subsequently exacerbated the already tense situation.
“He was fired because he violated Police Department rules, rules against the tactics he employed in approaching Mr. Hamilton that afternoon and about his decision to pat down Mr. Hamilton for weapons, and because these mistakes escalated a routine police encounter into a community catastrophe,” Sankovitz said.
Manney appealed the decision to the commission, which ultimately upheld Flynn’s decision, and then later appealed to circuit court, the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel reports.
Manney was involved in the deadly shooting of 31-year-old Hamilton, in which he fired 14 shots at the Black man during a confrontation in Milwaukee’s Red Arrow Park.
The fatal incident began when authorities received a call from workers at a nearby Starbucks complaining about Hamilton sleeping in the park. Per a summary of the Milwaukee police internal affairs investigation, two officers checked on the Milwaukee man and found he was doing nothing wrong. That’s when Manney showed up to respond to the call, unaware that the situation with Hamilton had already been resolved.
The officer attempted to pat Hamilton down, but the Milwaukee man resisted. According to the summary, Manney tried to subdue Hamilton with the use of his baton. However, Hamilton got control of it and swung it at Manney, hitting him on the side of the neck. That’s when the officer claimed he fired 14 shots at the Milwaukee man in self-defense.
It turned out Hamilton suffered a long history of mental illness, including a 2013 suicide attempt in which he stabbed both sides of his neck, according to the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel. Friends and family of the slain Milwaukee man marked the two-year anniversary of his death in April.
“I’m happy so many people came out,” said Dontre’s brother, Nate Hamilton, of the event organized at Red Arrow Park in honor of his brother’s life. “It’s about justice and love.”
In a statement released Wednesday, lawyers representing the Hamilton family praised Judge Sankovitz’s ruling. They also concurred with his assertion that Manney’s actions escalated the routine encounter “into a catastrophe of community-wide proportions with serious consequences for the public’s confidence in the police department.”
Officer Manney never faced state or criminal charges for Hamilton’s death, but the Milwaukee man’s family filed a civil rights lawsuit against him earlier this year alleging the department’s hiring and training practices led to their loved one’s demise. The suit named Manney and the City of Milwaukee as defendants, the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel reports.
“I’m going to continue to fight for Dontre and all the other stolen lives that have been taken by a country that protects their officers (and does) not hold them responsible and accountable for their actions,” said Maria Hamilton, Dontre’s mother.