Milwaukee officer in fatal shooting charged with sexual assault

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee police officer involved in the fatal shooting of a black man that sparked unrest in the city in August has been charged with sexual assault, according to a criminal complaint released Thursday.

Officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown, 24, is charged with two counts of felony second-degree sexual assault, and two counts of prostitution, a misdemeanor. He also is charged with one felony count of possessing or distributing a recording of nudity without consent.

According to officials, Sylville Smith, 23, was shot by Heaggan-Brown in the Sherman Park neighborhood when Smith ran from a traffic stop on the afternoon of Aug. 13.

According to the criminal complaint about the assault charges, a man said he met Heaggan-Brown through Facebook in July because he was looking for another musician to help with his music. Heaggan-Brown is a rapper.

The two exchanged text messages with Haeggan-Brown trying to meet him, the complaint said. They went to a bar late on the night of Aug. 14 where the man, who didn't usually drink, was given a Long Island Iced Tea. Heaggan-Brown and the man watched TV coverage of the Sherman Park unrest and protests.

In the complaint, the man said Heaggan-Brown “bragged about being able to do whatever (he) wanted without repercussions.”

The man told police he had trouble remembering what happened after he left the bar with Heaggan-Brown but said he remembered waking up to Heaggan-Brown raping him.

The man said he felt drugged during the assault. Hospital staff noted the man teared up and looked extremely traumatized as he recounted what happened.

Heaggan-Brown said he and the man had been at the bar and when the man began to act “weird and unresponsive,” he brought the man to the hospital.

According to the criminal complaint, the adult male victim went to a hospital during the early morning hours of Aug. 15 and reported he drank too much and was “completely out, zonked out of his ground.” The man “flipped out” when he saw Heaggan-Brown in the hospital and told the staff “he raped me.”

The criminal complaint said that later that morning, Heaggan-Brown sent a text to a Milwaukee police sergeant, whom he considered a mentor, that read: “Not so good. Got a separate situation. Need your help big time… (Expletive) up big time… But need to handle this the most secret and right way possible.”

When the sergeant met with Heaggan-Brown, Heaggan-Brown claimed the sex was consensual but admitted the man was drunk and had “medical issues.”

Crime lab analysts later estimated the man had a blood-alcohol level between 0.19% and 0.23%, the complaint said.

Police said Heaggan-Brown was suspended from the department as an internal investigation proceeds. The department said the officer is in custody, though the Milwaukee County jail online inmate list did not show him. He was scheduled to appear in court Thursday, according to records.

District Attorney John Chisholm said early Thursday that his office is reviewing the case against the officer but he declined to comment further.

The sexual assault counts are unrelated to the shooting, which remains under investigation, according to several sources.

In a statement, the Milwaukee Police Department said: "On August 15, a victim reported to Milwaukee Police he had been sexually assaulted by Heaggan-Brown while off-duty. This investigation ... resulted in the October 19 criminal complaint filed by the Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office."

Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn has said police body camera footage shows Smith was armed with a handgun and turning toward the officer when he was shot. The officers' body camera footage has not been released publicly, and state Attorney General Brad Schimel has said it won't be until Chisholm, the district attorney, makes a charging decision.

The Wisconsin Department of Justice conducted an investigation into the shooting and gave the results to Chisholm's office, which continues to review it. Chisholm said video from Heaggan-Brown and another officer's body camera will not be released Thursday and gave no timetable of when it will be released.

The fatal police shooting touched off two nights of violent unrest in the Sherman Park neighborhood, which many observers said had its roots in decades of systematic problems including segregation and poverty. During those two nights, eight businesses were torched, at least six squad cars were damaged, at least four officers were injured and two teens were wounded in separate shootings. Authorities estimated the damage at several millions of dollars. An investigation by federal and state law enforcement officials into the arson continues.

Heaggan-Brown began his career as a police aide in 2010 and became a sworn officer three years later. He was recognized by the Police Department in 2014 for helping a homeless woman. Two days before the fatal shooting, a notice of claim alleging “excessive, unreasonable and unjustified force” by Heaggan-Brown and his partner, Peter R. Hauser, was filed with the city. The excessive force claim alleges that Heaggan-Brown and Hauser, both on bicycles, illegally stopped a vehicle April 15.

Heaggan-Brown was facing widespread threats on social media in the aftermath of the shooting, and at a news conference on Aug. 14, Flynn said the officer was out of town for his own safety.

A records request for Heaggan-Brown's personnel file remains pending.

Follow John Diedrich and Ashley Luthern on Twitter: @john_diedrich and @aluthern


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