MADISON (WKOW) -- The police officer who shot a Madison man during a confrontation in early November has been cleared of any criminal liability.
The Dane County District Attorney's Office released its investigation on Thursday, saying Officer Stephen Heimsness acted as he should have when he used deadly force on November 9th, when he shot and killed Paul Heenan, 30.
The DA's office reviewed reports from police, the Wisconsin Crime Lab, the Medical Examiner's office and evidence from the scene, like gunshot residue. DA Ismael Ozanne says the report Officer Heimsness gave about what happened that night lines up with all the evidence.
Heimsness told police he responded to a call of a burglary in progress at a home on South Baldwin Street. It turned out, Heenan was a neighbor who entered the wrong house. But when Heimsness arrived, Heenan and the homeowner were struggling, so Heimsness pulled his gun. Heenan didn't respond to Heimsness' commands to get down and instead came towards the officer and grabbed his arm. Then, Heimsness fired three times, killing Heenan.
Heenan was unarmed at the time. Toxicology reports confirm he was very intoxicated-- with a blood alcohol level of .208, more than twice the legal limit.
Earlier this month, Emily Heenan, Paul's sister, wrote a letter to Ozanne and Police Chief Noble Wray asking some tough questions about what happened that night, calling for changes in police procedures and punishment for the officer involved.
Ozanne says the incident is more complicated than the grieving family believes.
"I don't necessarily have an ability to speak to some of her allegations," says Ozanne. "I could say this: I don't believe this could happen to just anyone. People every day in our community are intoxicated and yet they still don't go up to people's home and open doors in the middle of the night, that doesn't happen. To say that this could happen to any one of us, I think is a far greater stretch than her letter could have implied."
Jeff Scott Olson is a lawyer for the Heenan family. Olson says he didn't expect the DA's office to file criminal charges, but he says knowing more information about the case could lead them to filing a civil lawsuit.
Olson says the Heenan family wants the public to know Paul was a good hearted man.
"They know their son and they know their son was not by any stretch of the imagination a dangerous person," says Olson.
Heimsness is still on administrative leave, pending an internal investigation as to whether he followed department protocol. Use of force is something that Heimsness has been questioned about, and suspended for in the past, but Ozanne says the past didn't factor into the DA's office investigation.
Now that the DA's report is complete, the police department is expected to complete their internal investigation by the end of next week.
MADISON (WKOW) -- The Dane County District Attorney's Office says it has completed its investigation and found no potential criminal court liability for the City of Madison police officers involved in the shooting of Paul Heenan on November 9, 2012.
In a statement released by the DA's office, District Attorney Ismael Ozanne said, "Officers responded to the call of a burglary in progress. The first officer on the scene observed the front door of the residence was open and two individuals in a physical struggle on the sidewalk. As the officer approached he observed one person fitting the description of the caller's husband. The officer had his duty weapon drawn. The two individuals separated as the officer gave loud verbal commands to get on the ground. The unknown suspect, later identified as Heenan, advanced quickly on the officer in an aggressive manner. A brief struggle ensued in which the officer believed the suspect was attempting to disarm him. The officer was able push the suspect back and create separation between them, at which point the officer fired three shots. Responding to a physical threat to be disarmed with deadly force may be reasonable under the law."
The District Attorney's Office concludes that in this case, the officer felt compelled to use deadly force when he believed he was going to be disarmed by a suspect from a potential burglary.
You can read the full report from the DA's office here.
The officer who fired the shots has been identified as Officer Stephen Heimsness, who responding to a 911 call about a possible burglary.
Heimsness has been disciplined in the past for excessive use of force. Ozanne says the DA's office only looked at Heimsness' actions in this incident, and the police department's investigation will review his entire record. Officers say that report is expected to be ready by the end of next week.
Tonight on 27 News at 5 & 6, Jennifer Kliese will share comments from Ozanne and reaction from the Heenan family's attorney.
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