The Justice Department announced today that there is insufficient evidence to pursue federal criminal civil rights charges against former Milwaukee Police Officer Christopher Manney for the death of Dontre Hamilton on April 30, 2014.
Officials from the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of Wisconsin, the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and the FBI met today with Hamilton’s family and their representatives to inform them of this decision.
Federal authorities conducted a comprehensive and independent review of the evidence collected related to the death of Hamilton, who was shot during a struggle with Manney. This 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.
The team of experienced federal prosecutors and FBI agents considered whether Manney violated federal law by willfully using unreasonable force against Hamilton. Under the applicable federal criminal civil rights statute, prosecutors must establish, beyond a reasonable doubt, that a law enforcement officer willfully deprived an individual of a Constitutional right. 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. Mistake, misperception, negligence or poor judgment are not sufficient to establish a federal criminal civil rights violation.
In this case, there were numerous civilian witnesses who saw some part of the physical confrontation between Manney and Hamilton. Based on those eyewitness accounts, the account of the former officer involved, the physical evidence and the assessments of independent use of force experts, the team of experienced federal prosecutors and FBI agents determined that the evidence was insufficient to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Manney acted willfully with a bad purpose to violate the law. Accordingly, the federal review of this incident has been closed without prosecution. This decision 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.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of Wisconsin, the Civil Rights Division and the FBI are committed to investigating allegations of civil rights violations by law enforcement officers and will continue to devote the resources required to ensure that all allegations of serious civil rights violations are fully and completely investigated. The department will aggressively prosecute criminal civil rights violations whenever there is sufficient evidence to do so.