MILWAUKEE - Federal officials will review the case of a black man fatally shot by a white Milwaukee policeman after local officials found the officer had acted in self-defense.
U.S. Attorney James Santelle announced late Monday that the Department of Justice, his office and the FBI will review whether former Officer Christopher Manney violated federal civil rights laws when he killed Dontre Hamilton.
The investigation comes at a time of rising tensions between black Americans and police departments across the country. Manney is at least the third white police officer in the U.S. to avoid charges in the past month after a confrontation that led to a black man's death.
Dontre Hamilton's brother, Nate Hamilton, said the family hopes federal investigators can take a more objective look at the case than Milwaukee authorities and weigh all the evidence. The state Division of Criminal Investigation led the review of the case, but Nate Hamilton said the family thinks that agency works too closely with Milwaukee police to be impartial.
"I think we'll get a better look. I want to be confident in it, but, right now, I cannot put my trust in the system," he said.
Manney's attorney didn't return a message seeking comment about the federal review.
He shot 31-year-old Hamilton in April after responding to a call of a man sleeping in a downtown park. His family said Hamilton suffered from schizophrenia and had recently stopped taking his medication. Manney said Hamilton resisted when he tried to frisk him. The two exchanged punches before Hamilton got hold of Manney's baton and hit him on the neck, the former officer has said.
Police Chief Edward Flynn fired Manney in October, saying the officer correctly identified Hamilton as mentally ill but ignored department policy and treated him as a criminal by frisking him. Manney is appealing. Tensions had mounted ahead of Chisholm's decision, fueled by anger over the police killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York.
Milwaukee Country District Attorney John Chisholm said at a news conference that his job wasn't to evaluate whether Manney adhered to policy but whether he applied the correct amount of force in that situation. He said witnesses reported Manney gave Hamilton verbal commands to stop.
"On a human level, of course, it's tragic," Chisholm said. "(But) our job is not to tell people necessarily what they want to hear."
At a separate news conference, the Hamilton family urged protesters to remain peaceful, but Nate Hamilton spoke bitterly, saying the family had "cried too long" and, "We don't have to be the voice of reason."