Sylville Smith's sister makes tearful plea for peace after acquittal of her brother's killer

Posted at 3:27 PM, Jun 21, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-21 23:13:22-04

MILWAUKEE -- In tears outside the Milwaukee County Courthouse Wednesday, Sylville Smith's sister Sherelle made an emotional plea for peace after the former officer who killed her brother was acquitted.

"Don't give them a reason to take your life," Sherelle said in a news conference with the family's lawyer. "Do something different in the community, try as hard as you can to be peaceful and form unity with each other... black or white. Because we all bleed the same, we all hurt the same."

Sherelle's brother Sylville was shot and killed by former Milwaukee police officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown last August. Heaggan-Brown was acquitted of all charges Wednesday.

"I don't want to lose nobody else. Family or not family, people matter to me," the young woman said. "Please just try to change the way you think and react."

"If you can walk away or change your life, just please just try to change your life."

Sylville Smith's father Patrick Smith made a similar plea for peace.

"Everybody in this city didn't do anything to my son," Patrick said. "It was only one person that took my son's life and that's Heaggan-Brown. I don't want them to be irrational with cops because all cops ain't bad."

Family friends say they feel like no one is on their side.

"I just feel like justice wasn't served today you know. I feel he got away with this he totally got away with it," said Santana Jones. 

The family will be filing a federal lawsuit against both Heaggan-Brown and the city of Milwaukee.

"This isn't over at all by any means," David Owens, the Smith family attorney said. "This is just a new beginning. That's the important thing. Justice will live to fight another day. This doesn't have to be an us versus them attitude but when communities lack trust because their rights have been violated, it's hard to begin the conversation."

On August 13, 2016, officers chased Smith on foot after he ran from a traffic stop near 44th and Auer. Heaggan-Brown shot first, firing a bullet at Smith, and striking him in the arm.

The second and fatal shot was fired after Smith tossed his gun and dropped to the ground. It happened less than two seconds after the first. Smith's shooting triggered several nights of violence in Milwaukee's Sherman Park neighborhood. Local businesses and cars were vandalized, set on fire, and destroyed, causing millions of dollars in damage.

Several people were charged for looting. So far there have been no charges in the series of fires.