Facebook push for outside investigation into shooting - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Facebook push for outside investigation into officer-involved shooting

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Family and friends of the man shot and killed by a Madison police officer aren't happy with Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne's decision to not press charges, and they've created a social media movement to get another investigation.

Paulie Heenan Memorial, a Facebook page created just more than a week after the 30-year-old was shot and killed by Officer Stephen Heimsness, has now become a grassroots campaign for another look at the case and a state law to change how police shootings are investigated.

As of Monday night, the page has more than 1,100 followers behind their latest effort-- sending letters to local officials, asking for an outside investigation into what happened on November 9th.

"They don't know Paulie, probably a quarter of these people know Paulie, but they care about their neighbor," says Amelia Royko Maurer, who lived with Heenan in the S. Baldwin Street apartment next door to the shooting. "There needs to be safety and justice with what happened here, and objectivity and we can't know that unless we go outside of the police chief and Officer Heimsness' coworkers."

So far, there have been two investigations of the shooting. The DA's office released a report on December 27th, finding no criminal liability. The police department's internal investigation is still ongoing. Chief Noble Wray is expected to release its findings on Wednesday.

Madison police spokesperson Joel DeSpain responded to the Facebook letter on Monday, saying the chief believes the department's investigation is impartial and fair, and points out that a number of Dane County departments were involved in the DA's report. DeSpain says the entire department has compassion for Heenan's family and what they're going through.

UW-Madison law professor and police prosecution policy expert Mike Scott says ideally all reviews would be done outside the police department.

"There's always merit in having some kind of objective, independent, external review of investigations, if not the investigations themselves," says Scott.

But as a former police chief, Scott knows there is a need for internal investigations too, to determine whether officers follow department protocol and if current policies and equipment are suitable.

Scott says the Madison Police Department has a good reputation of using deadly force in a restrictive way, and has procedures that are up to date. He says there aren't any obvious changes needed.

Criminal prosecution of an officer is very rare in police shootings but Scott says it can happen, and has happened in other states. He doesn't think an external investigation would find criminal liability in the Heenan case.

The Facebook letter cites a state of Oregon law that any case involving an officer shooting is investigated by an outside agency and goes before a grand jury. Heenan's supporters want a similar law here in Wisconsin, that would create an independent board to investigate police shootings.

Madison Rep. Brett Hulsey says it could be a good idea, but it can't happen overnight.

"We need to do some digging and see if this warrants changing, obviously with police brutality in Milwaukee and this case it's something we need to take a look at," says Hulsey.

Rep. Terese Berceau says she hasn't heard of any legislation in the works, but she would consider it, although she believes it could be hard to gain support.

"I think it would take a while to convince people that it was time for an independent process," says Berceau. "I don't think it would happen very quickly or easily."

Both lawmakers say they would like to see an external investigation in this case.

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