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Milwaukee agrees to settle for $4 million with Sylville Smith's family

Posted at 5:54 PM, Oct 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-23 18:56:14-04

MILWAUKEE — The City of Milwaukee wants to settle a lawsuit with the family of Sylville Smith for $4 million. His death by a former Milwaukee Police officer sparked civil unrest in Sherman Park four years ago. The city had been fighting the lawsuit. Now, it appears the two sides may be ready to settle, just before the case was set to go to trial.

Smith was shot and killed in 2016 by former Milwaukee Police Officer Dominque Heaggan-Brown near Sherman Park. That shooting set off civil unrest in the area for days.

Heaggan-Brown was charged with first-degree reckless homicide in Smith's death, but a jury later acquitted him. Heaggan-Brown was convicted on an unrelated sex assault charges, including one that happened the day after Smith's death. After that, Smith's parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city.

"While criminal justice is one form of justice, it's not the only form of justice,” said David Owens, the attorney for Smith’s estate, who spoke out after Heaggan-Brown’s acquittal.

The lawsuit was set to move forward in federal court next month. Now, the city is asking the Common Council to approve a $4 million settlement.

That's a bigger settlement than other city settlements.

Derek Williams Lawsuit
-Settled for $2 million
-Williams died in the back of Milwaukee Police squad car

Dontre Hamiliton Lawsuit
-Settled for $2.3 million
-Hamilton was shot and killed by a Milwaukee Police Officer in Red Arrow Park

Stop and Frisk Lawsuit
-Settled for $3.4 million
-ACLU sued on behalf of a half a dozen Black and Latino residents stopped without probable cause by Milwaukee Police.

It's important to note this is just a proposed settlement. The Common Council would still need to approve it. The finance committee will take up the matter on October 28th.

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