Cellphone video taken from another building seemed to show Milwaukee police shoot an unarmed man they had cornered on a rooftop last year, but newly released footage from the officer’s body camera confirms the impression in disturbing detail.
Jerry Smith Jr. had spread his arms and fingers as officers approached him with guns drawn the afternoon of Aug. 31, 2017, and appears to be getting on the ground as two officers shoot him from close range.
Smith survived but underwent several surgeries and will suffer permanent partial paralysis in his right leg, said Daniel Storm, a private investigator working on Smith’s federal civil rights lawsuit against the city.
‘People just need to see this’
Storm released the body-camera video from one of the officers, Adam Stahl, which he obtained about a month ago, to illustrate why he says many people believe police get away with murder.
“People just need to see this,” Storm said. Police “can buy toys and all the ice cream they want but until they’re held accountable, the black community will never trust a cop.”
While state law requires outside agencies review fatal police shootings, the Milwaukee Police Department did its own review of the Smith incident.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Kent Lovern concluded in June that Stahl and officer Melvin Finkley were justified in using deadly force because they believed Smith was armed or was reaching for a gun behind an air conditioning unit on the roof.
No gun found
No gun was ever found. Smith, who has no criminal record, was not charged with any crime.
According to Lovern’s letter to Police Chief Alfonso Morales, Finkley and Stahl were in the area when they heard a call that a suspect, believed to be armed, was on the rooftop.
Several other officers were around the one-story roof on the ground, and others were on a stairway leading to the roof. On the video, one says, “He doesn’t have a gun in his hand, but he was hiding behind the AC.”
As Finkley and Stahl climb onto roof they approach Smith, who is standing at the far side, from two directions and order him to put his hands in the air and turn around. Smith puts his hands up to the sides but continues facing the officers.
Then he leans forward as if to get on the ground, though the officers have not yet made that command. Lovern’s letter indicates the officers thought Smith was reaching behind the AC unit about four feet away, where they believed he might have a gun.
SOURCE: Bruce Vielmetti
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel