MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Police Department released officer body camera video and 911 calls of a fatal police shooting on Milwaukee’s south side nearly two months ago.
But the man shot and killed by police in that incident - including his sister, who is an MPD officer - says there’s more to what happened. They hired an attorney and are fighting for change.
The body camera footage shows the police perspective, moments before an officer with six years on the force shot and killed Roberto Zielinski, 49. It happened on Sunday, May 30 near 20th and Cleveland.
The edited video released by MPD also shows some police photos of the investigation after the shooting. And it includes two 911 calls from people who live nearby:
Part of First 911 call: “He’s shooting. We got kids in here. He’s at his house across the street, shooting outside. He’s fired six or seven shots. I would let officers know that he’s legit trying to be suicidal. So, if they come up on him, he’s probably going to shoot.”
Part of Second 911 call: "He’s on his porch. He’s shooting up and down the block in the alley. He appears drunk or something. He says someone is trying to rob him.”
When officers arrived, they say Zielinsky was armed with a gun on his front porch, but moved to the back of his house and fired shots. In the police body camera video, you can hear gunshots and officers make contact with Zielinsky from a distance, pleading for him to put the gun down. They say Zielinski raised the gun to his head. In the video, you can hear several shots fired from a distance. You can also hear the shot fired at Zielinsky, and officers run to provide medical aid.
But the attorney representing Zielinski’s family says police can’t just choose what video to release and call themselves transparent.
“We demand that the department release all of the video of the shooting and killing of Roberto Zielinski, from all of the body cameras that were present at the scene, not just some of it that they choose,” said Russell Ainsworth of Loevy & Loevy Attorneys at Law.
Ainsworth says the video MPD released regarding the shooting of Zielinski is missing key details.
“Moments before Roberto Zielinski was murdered, he was calling out for help,” Ainsworth said. “He was asking for his sister, who is a Milwaukee police officer, to be contacted and brought to the scene to help him. He held a gun to his head because he was in a mental health crisis. They did not try to reach out to his sister or de-escalate the situation. Part of protecting the public includes protecting someone who is in a mental health crisis.”
MPD does say in the video they released that “audio is redacted to protect family members' identity.”
Family members of Zielinsky gathered with their attorney outside City Hall Friday. They say Zielinsky was a father of two, who struggled with mental health before.
“My uncle should still be alive,” said Jacob Gonzalez. “It makes me wonder and feel concern about how MPD handles situations with people who are going through mental breakdowns. I don’t want this to happen to anyone else.”
This officer who shot and killed Zielinsky is on paid administrative leave, pending an independent investigation led by the Waukesha Police Department.
MPD released this statement to TMJ4 News regarding transparency:
"The Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) values transparency and accountability, particularly as is relates to officer involved shootings. Currently, MPD is one of the only, if not the only, Wisconsin law enforcement agency that releases community briefings to the public for officer involved critical incidents prior to a charging decision. MPD prioritizes releasing information on officer involved shootings as soon as possible, unless releasing the information will jeopardize the integrity of the investigation. Per Wisconsin state law, fatal officer involved incidents must be investigated by an outside agency, which necessarily causes delays in obtaining all the information necessary to release information to the public."
"The commentary in MPD’s community briefings are not meant to persuade the viewer, but rather to provide context of the incident. MPD makes a concerted effort to include the appropriate level of body camera footage necessary to provide an accurate depiction of what occurred and does not remove any content because of how it may reflect on the department. Likewise, all redactions are performed out of necessity; typically to protect the identity of non-MPD individuals involved in the incident. For the community briefing released on July 16, 2021, MPD disguised the voices and identifying information of the two 911 callers, as well as comments made by the decedent that would have identified a member of the decedent’s family. Ultimately, additional body camera footage will become available through the public records process."
"MPD remains committed to being transparent and working in collaboration with our community to build sustainable neighborhoods free of crime."