#BlackLivesMatter: Who Was Dontre Hamilton?

The now-fired Milwaukee police officer who fatally shot Dontre Hamilton in Red Arrow Park in April 2014 violated his constitutional rights by illegally patting him down for weapons, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

The decision is a partial victory for the Hamilton family in their civil suit against the officer and the city. It means they are entitled to receive damages in at least one of their four claims against the former officer, Christopher Manney.

Three remaining claims still need to be decided by a jury, according to the ruling by U.S. District Judge J.P. Stadtmueller. They are: Whether Manney detained Hamilton unlawfully, whether Manney used excessive force against Hamilton and whether the city failed to properly train Manney, particularly with regard to dealing with mentally ill people.

The incident that resulted in Hamilton’s death began when workers at the nearby Starbucks called police to complain that he was sleeping in the park. A pair of officers had twice checked on him earlier and found he was doing nothing wrong.

Manney, the beat officer in the area, unaware of the other officers’ actions, retrieved a voicemail about Hamilton and went to the park. He approached Hamilton, who was lying on the ground and asked him to stand.

Chief fired officer

Manney came up behind Hamilton, placing his hands under Hamilton’s arms and on his chest in what Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn later described as an “out of policy pat-down.” In the confrontation that unfolded after the pat-down, Hamilton got control of Manney’s baton and Manney shot Hamilton 14 times.

The national debate over police relations with the African-American community escalated after the killing of two New York City police officers on Saturday by a man who cited his anger about the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases on social media.

*Originally published on JS Online.

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