Christopher Manney, a white Milwaukee police officer who fatally shot Dontre Hamilton, a mentally ill black man, won't face criminal charges because he shot Hamilton in self-defense, Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm said today. Manney shot 31-year-old Hamilton on April 30 after responding to a call about a man sleeping in a downtown park. Manney says Hamilton resisted when he tried to frisk him, and the two exchanged punches before Hamilton got hold of Manney's baton and hit him on the neck. Manney then opened fire, hitting Hamilton 14 times. Several witnesses told police they saw Hamilton holding Manney's baton "in an aggressive posture" before Manney shot him. Police Chief Edward Flynn fired Manney in October, saying at the time that Manney correctly identified Hamilton as mentally ill, but ignored department policy and treated him as a criminal by frisking him.
Chisholm consulted with two experts on the use of force by police officers, who concluded Manney's conduct was justified; one said all the shots were discharged in three or four seconds and there was no evidence that Manney continued firing after Hamilton hit the ground. Hamilton's death preceded the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, but the case hasn't attracted as much attention; his family has led mainly peaceful protests trying to raise awareness about mental illness (they say he suffered from schizophrenia and had stopped taking his medication). The Hamilton family released a statement expressing their disappointment with the decision, saying the case "cries out for justice, criminal charges against Christopher Manney, and accountability to Dontre Hamilton's family." The family said it has asked the US attorney in Milwaukee to seek a federal investigation. (Read more Milwaukee stories.)