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Bad Cop Blotter

The Milwaukee Police Officer Who Killed a Schizophrenic Man Got Fired and Nobody's Happy

The officer lost his job, but he probably won't be facing charges for killing someone.

Protesters call out the Milwaukee Police Department. Photo via Flickr user Light Brigading

On April 30, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, police officer Christopher Manney fatally shot 31-year-old Dontre Hamilton after an alleged scuffle. Manney reportedly fired 14 shots at Hamilton, who suffered from schizophrenia, and on October 16, Police Chief Edward Flynn fired his officer.

Now the police union and at least 100 other officers are voicing their displeasure at this decision. Meanwhile, Hamilton’s family and various supporters call the firing a “political” move intended to placate them. The Milwaukee PD has had its share of controversies over the years, including Flynn’s David Petraeus–style affair with a journalist who profiled him, and officers performing illegal cavity searches that sound more like sexual assault. Yet, with all that going on, the department had not fired an officer for an on-duty incident since the 60s.


Local District Attorney Kent Lovern has yet to decide where to file criminal charges against the ex-officer. It seems likely they’re not forthcoming because Flynn officially fired Manney not for the 14 shots but for the initial patdown that lead to the confrontation. Hamilton, according to the chief, violated standard operating procedure both with the pat downs and his general interactions with a homeless, mentally ill individual.

Manney was conducting a welfare check on Hamilton, who had recently gone off his medication and was sleeping the park (though he was not, in fact, homeless). Flynn said that Manney’s antagonizing pat down, which was done from behind—which might alarm a paranoid and mentally ill man—was performed “for no reason” and set off the incident. Other officers had checked in on Hamilton earlier, and since he was obviously not well, Manney should have called back-up or held off entirely.

According to Manney, who filed for PTSD-induced disability days before his firing and will therefore likely end up with exactly the same salary he previously enjoyed, Hamilton punched him and at one point had his baton in hand, necessitating the shooting. He also testified that Hamilton had “bulges” under his clothes that might have been weapons. Flynn backs this story up, despite firing the guy. Hamilton’s family counters that while he may have been sick, he wasn’t violent, and they would sure like to see photographs of the officer’s injuries.


It seems that the punishment for killing schizophrenic men who don’t submit to police in the United States is merely a firing—if that. The Fullerton, California, officers who killed the homeless Kelly Thomas in 2011 lost their jobs but avoided any charges. The Albuquerque officers who killed the schizophrenic James Boyd  in an error-ridden confrontation earlier this year are still on administrative leave.

It’s tempting to think the system worked here after the tragedy of Hamilton’s death. No, Manney wasn’t fired for excessive force, but someone died by his hand and his gun, and he won’t be a cop anymore. That’s both a hell of a start and the absolute, shameful minimum that the public should demand.

Now for the rest of this week’s bad cops:

-VICE News’ Jason Leopold reported on October 17 that the Washington, DC police have had a Stingray device for more than a decade, and have been using it since 2008 without public accountability in order to investigate basic drug crimes, among other stuff. Stingrays, or IMSI catchers, can be used to search for individual cellphones, and even track people’s movements, often without a warrant, and while picking up numerous other cellphones from innocent bystanders. Their use (and even police department possession of them) is jealously guarded on grounds of national security, corporate security, and other nonsense.

-Holy crap: In 2014, there have been ten convictions for murder tossed out for various reasons in Brooklyn. Many were based on what turned out to be false confessions, but also some obvious they-got-the-wrong-dude situations.


-Facebook annoyed some folks when they began cracking down on users who picked different names. On Friday, they also sent a scolding letter to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), telling them that setting up fake profiles under the name of suspects is a violation of their terms of service. Sondra Arquiett, whose identity was seized by the DEA without permission and used to communicate with suspected criminals in 2010, is suing for $25,000 on the grounds that her privacy was violated and she was and endangered, so she’ll be pleased about this.

-On Saturday, around 60 protesters in Saratoga Springs, Utah, demonstrated against the September 10 shooting of Darrien Hunt by police. The 22-year-old was carrying a blunt but life-sized samurai sword when he was killed. The DA says Hunt waved the sword at police, and then was chased. A private autopsy seems to show that Hunt was indeed shot in the back, but the official autopsy is still pending. Hunt’s funeral included some anime drawings he had made, and his family confirmed rumors that the young man was a fan of cosplaying, which explains the whole sword thing. Not unlike the August fatal shooting of John Crawford in an Ohio Walmart, this incident began when someone called 911. His family thinks the initial confrontation and the fatal conclusion both had a racial basis. Along with the protesters, they're demanding body cameras be placed on local cops, and the creation of a civilian review board with some real muscle.

-A federal judge wrote that the government's secrecy in its campaign against the Las Vegas Cobb family was "constitutionally abhorrent,” which sounds about right. The Cobbs, who are accused of running an illegal bookie operation, have been investigated for ten years by the Vegas prosecutors, the IRS, and the Secret Service. They have had $13.2 million dollars taken from bank accounts and even a private safe. If you thought civil asset forfeiture was too easy for local and state governments to engage in, get a load of civil asset forfeiture proceedings put under so-called "super seal." Not only did that mean the 82-year-old Edwin Cobb and his family’s millions were taken without a trial and without charges being filed, but the documents relating to the forfeiture actions were hidden from them and from the public at large. There is no justification for this, except a desire to avoid accountability.

-On Wednesday, a 26-year-old Boston man was handcuffed and had his phone taken by an as-yet-unnamed officer with that city’s police department. According to the blog Photography Is Not a Crime, Max Bickford was cuffed for only about five minutes, but his phone was wrenched out of his hands by the officer, and Bickford says it was damaged. In video of the incident, the cop has cuffed another man who is face down on the street with his shirt over his face. Bickford obeys the initial police order to move his bike, as the cop sarcastically tells him “good job” and “thanks for your help.” Eventually, the officer actually drags his perp closer to Bickford before snatching the phone away. The excuse for taking it was that the phone contained “evidence of a crime,” but the officer had already complained that Bickford had no idea about the reason or the context for the arrest, so that one doesn’t really work.

-On Tuesday, a California Highway Patrol officer was driving near Big Bear just in time to see a smoking Subaru that had gone off the highway and tumbled 25 feet down a hill. Officer Jason Holzberger’s fortuitous timing, and his fast reaction, lead to the successful rescue of trapped driver Wallace Henderson. The airbag was blocking Henderson’s way out of the car, but Holzberger opened the door and told him to get out only moments before it burst into flames. This makes Holzberger our Good Cop of the Week.

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