Milwaukee, WI – The Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors has voted to kick in $3,000 to pay for a memorial bench honoring a suspect who stole a Milwaukee police officer’s baton and beat him with it seven years ago.
In addition to the bench honoring Dontre Hamilton, who was fatally shot by the officer during the violent attack, the contribution approved by the county supervisors will also be used to purchase a plaque about the impact his life made in the community and on mental health issues, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
“Dontre Hamilton was a man given to us to inspire, motivate, encourage, strengthen, love, and so much more,” the plaque will read. “Every day he continues to manifest within our lives, to keep us united and strong not only as a community but as a family, to uplift us, to continue our fight towards justice.”
“We also have used Dontre’s name to shed light on the difficulties we face around mental health issues,” the message will continue. “We can challenge Milwaukee to be better educated and informed on how to bring more consciousness in supporting those who deal with mental health.”
The plaque and bench honoring Hamilton will be placed in Red Arrow Park, the same location where he was fatally shot by the officer he attacked in 2014, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
Milwaukee County Supervisor John Weishan was the only member of the board who voted against the proposal.
Milwaukee police had already made contact with Hamilton earlier on April 30, 2014, after a Starbucks employee called police to report Hamilton was lying in the sidewalk outside the business and was possibly asleep, WJDT reported.
Officers responded to Red Arrow Park at 1:52 p.m. and 2:09 p.m. to conduct welfare checks on him, and neither incident resulted in physical contact or additional action.
Milwaukee Police Officer Christopher Manney was working his shift in the downtown area at 3:20 p.m. when he responded to the initial call from Starbucks, not realizing officers had already responded twice, WJDT reported.
Officer Manney made contact with Hamilton and was trying to pat him down when the suspect started fighting, police said.
The officer and the suspect punched one another repeatedly during the brawl before Officer Manney took out his baton, WJDT reported.
Hamilton managed to strip the weapon away from Officer Manney and began beating him with it, according to police.
Officer Manney defended himself by drawing his duty pistol and opening fire, shooting Hamilton 14 times, WJDT reported.
Hamilton succumbed to his wounds at the scene.
Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm concluded in December of 2014 that Officer Manney “was justified in firing at Dontre Hamilton,” NBC News reported.
Chisholm further determined the multiple rounds Officer Manney fired at his attacker constituted “defensive action forced upon him by Dontre Hamilton’s deadly attack with a police baton.”
Then-Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn agreed that the shooting was justified, but alleged Officer Manney went against the training he’d received regarding how to properly engage with someone who is emotionally disturbed, WJDT reported.
Chief Flynn said the officer’s supposed error in judgement resulted in Hamilton’s death.
“We have a series of decisions by Officer Manney that resulted in taking of a human life,” Chief Flynn said at the time, according to WDJT. “While I find errors in judgment used by Officer Manney, there was no malice in his decisions.”
However, the chief noted Officer Manney “should have known better,” according to the news outlet.
Chief Flynn said that the department was holding itself accountable by firing Officer Manney on a policy violation, WDJT reported.
Then-Milwaukee Alderman Bob Donovan slammed the chief’s decision to fire Officer Manney.
“This entire matter reeks of politics,” Donovan declared.
Likewise, the Milwaukee Police Association denounced the “cowardice” decision, saying it was “unfounded and unsupported by fact,” WDJT reported.
The Milwaukee Common Council approved a $2.3 million payout to Hamilton’s family in 2017, according to NBC News.
The push to approve the funding for the bench and plaque in Hamilton’s honor was spearheaded by Milwaukee County Supervisor Sequanna Taylor, who praised the board’s final decision last week, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
“Even though I am happy that we are able to do something for this family…I want everyone to know this is not justice for this family losing their son,” Taylor told the paper. “This is just a way that we can have a memorial and a celebration of his life, given that he died in such a tragic way.”
“The Dontre Hamilton Memorial bench will provide a space of healing for families who have lost loved ones to violence committed by those sworn to protect and serve and bring awareness to mental health issues in our community,” Taylor told the Milwaukee Independent. “I thank my colleagues on the County Board for their support in this effort. But we must be clear that this memorial does not provide justice for the Hamilton family.”
Milwaukee Alderman Khalif Rainey also praised the county supervisors’ decision to fund the memorial.
“Dontre’s enormous impact on us has been palpable since his passing, and it is no surprise that after almost every incident of police violence or racial injustice, ‘Dontre Hamilton Park’ has been the epicenter for almost every rally or protest march through Milwaukee,” Rainey told the Milwaukee Independent. “And the park has also hosted ‘Dontre Day’ each year to remember his life and death.”