No Federal Civil Rights Charges Over Killing Of Mentally Ill Man Dontre Hamilton

In April 2014, the 31-year-old Milwaukee man was shot and killed by a police officer in a park.

Hamilton family

Dontre Hamilton


Chris Manney

The Justice Department will not lay any federal civil rights charges over the April 2014 shooting death of mentally ill Milwaukee man Dontre Hamilton, the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Washington announced Tuesday.

After a 10-month review of the evidence, the DOJ determined that former officer Chris Manney did not act with “deliberate and specific intent to do something the law forbids” when he shot and killed the 31-year-old in Milwaukee’s Red Arrow Park.

On the evening April 30, 2014, Hamilton, a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic, was sleeping on a park bench when employees from a nearby Starbucks called the police because they thought he was disturbing the peace. Two officers responded and informed the baristas that Dontre wasn’t doing anything illegal.

Manney showed up after, roused Dontre, and tried to pat him down. The two men got into a struggle and Dontre allegedly swiped Manney’s baton and hit him with it. Manney fired his gun, hitting Dontre 14 times and killing him.

The tragedy reverberated through the community and made national news as details of what happened that night in the park emerged.

Six months later, Manney was fired in October 2014 for executing an illegal pat-down on an “EDP” (emotionally disturbed person). Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn called the pat-down a violation of department procedure, but wouldn’t damn Manney’s use of deadly force.

In December 2014, the state announced that Manney would not face criminal charges.

“Mistake, misperception, negligence, or poor judgment are not sufficient to establish a federal criminal civil rights violation,” the U.S. Attorney’s office said Tuesday in announcing that it wouldn’t press charges.

In a statement, Hamilton’s family and their attorneys said they are “extremely disappointed with the decision, and are also dismayed by the length of time it took the federal government to make this decision.”

The family says they intend to file a civil rights lawsuit in federal court.