Family members of slain African-American Milwaukee man Sylville Smith sobbed in a courtroom Wednesday as they watched police dashcam video footage of his shooting death during the homicide trial of ex-cop Dominique Heaggan-Brown.
So emotional was footage of the shooting that occurred at a bustling intersection in August, Heaggan-Brown’s attorney requested a mistrial, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
But Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Jeffrey Conen dismissed the request, determining the disturbing video did not tread on the defendant’s rights, notes the report. He ordered jurors to disregard visceral reactions to the footage.
Heaggan-Brown, 25, who is Black, is on trial for first-degree reckless homicide in the Aug. 13, 2016 incident that sparked two days of violent riots in the Sherman Park neighborhood in Milwaukee, a predominantly Black area gripped by poverty, joblessness and racial tensions. The footage of the ex-cop, who was fired from the Milwaukee Police Department in October after facing unrelated sexual assault charges, was shown publicly for the first time, writes the Sentinel.
With describing the emotional reaction from Smith’s relatives to the video, the publication writes that the family gasped and cried, with several members having left the courtroom.
Ndiva Malafa, another officer who was on patrol with Heaggan-Brown, wore a camera that recorded the shooting that unfolded after Smith, 23, ran with a gun from an attempted traffic stop near a busy intersection. Shaky footage showed Smith, who reached for a gun while holding onto a fence across the gangway between two duplexes after a foot chase with police, being shot twice by Heaggan-Brown. The first shot went into Smith’s right bicep before he fell with his legs violently flopping up over his torso. The second shot hit his chest as Heaggan-Brown stood nearly three feet away, notes the Sentinel.
The video later revealed that Malafa performed rescue breathing on Smith as other officers took turns doing chest compressions. Malafa, who told the court during cross-examination that he feared for his and Heaggan-Brown’s life during the brief chase because Smith had a gun, admitted in an interview after the shooting that he told investigators that he heard Heaggan-Brown yell loudly to Smith to “drop the gun.”