A twenty-two year old man died in the back of a Milwaukee police squad car last summer. His case has been at the front and center of many peoples’ minds, and is being thrust back into the spotlight this week after the medical examiner revisited its ruling on the cause of death—changing it from “natural” to “homicide.”
A video captured Derek Williams’ death. He had been arrested for trying to rob a couple and cuffed in the back of a squad car. For 15 minutes, the camera catches him struggling, unable to breathe. He tells the officers repeatedly that he cannot breathe and he is told, in return, “You’re breathing just fine.”
The police ignored his struggle until he lost consciousness, and then died.
Initially, the coroner’s office had ruled the death a natural one. Now, it’s listed as a homicide. And, as a result, the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office has reopened the investigation to determine if criminal charges are warranted.
Since the tragic death other issues with the same officers have come to light. One of them idly stood by as a fellow officer conducted a highly illegal and unethical cavity search for drugs. Another is listed in reports with similar allegations.
At least seven officers in the city, including a supervisor, have been reassigned during the year amid allegations that cavity searches violated civil rights and may have been sexual assaults.
The incidents, in total, are adding up to significant ammunition that could warrant a federal investigation into the department.
An attorney representing Derek Williams’ family says the Milwaukee District Attorney John Chisholm shouldn’t be allowed to investigate the death—that there is an inherent and obvious bias from the top cop.
“The video is one of the most troubling things I have ever seen,” said attorney Jonathan Safran. “It’s simply unconscionable to watch what happens in the back of that squad car.”
Citizens are understandably calling for a major shake-up in the department, including criminal charges against the police for both the Williams death and the assaults via cavity search. Time will tell if the District Attorney is the one to dole those out or if they will have to come from the federal government.
No one would say that each and every cop is a bad cop. However, the “bad” ones seem to spoil the bunch, and we hear of more and more of these “rare” cases each and every day.
When you have a run-in with law enforcement, and you face criminal charges as a result, you need someone on your side. We may be able to help. Whether you were caught with drugs or if you face charges of fighting with an officer, you have rights. Contact us today to discuss your case.