WASHINGTON -- A former Milwaukee police officer who was fired after he shot and killed a black man with mental illness will not face federal civil rights charges, the Justice Department announced Tuesday.
The federal investigation into the death of Dontre Hamilton began after local prosecutors in Milwaukee announced last December that Officer Christopher Manney would not face criminal charges. The Justice Department found there was "insufficient evidence" to charge Manney in Hamilton's April 30, 2014, death.
Manney shot Hamilton 14 times in a local park after workers at a nearby Starbucks called and complained about him sleeping there. The officer was subsequently fired from the force, and a panel in Milwaukee upheld the dismissal in March, finding that he violated protocol in his "pat down" and use of force against Hamilton.
Hamilton's family was informed of the Justice Department decision in a meeting with federal officials on Tuesday morning. The department said in a statement that its "comprehensive and independent review of the evidence" included "reviewing all information from the state investigation, reviewing all recorded interviews, consulting with the Milwaukee County medical examiner and reviewing the transcripts from Manney’s termination hearing by the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission."
But federal prosecutors and FBI agents determined there wasn't enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Manney willfully used unreasonable force against Hamilton.
"To establish willfulness, federal authorities must show that the officer acted with the deliberate and specific intent to do something the law forbids. This is the highest standard of intent imposed by law," DOJ's statement read. "Mistake, misperception, negligence or poor judgment are not sufficient to establish a federal criminal civil rights violation." The decision, DOJ stated, "is limited strictly to an application of the high legal standard required to prosecute the case under the federal civil rights statute; it does not reflect an assessment of any other aspect of the incident that led to Hamilton’s death."