MADISON (WKOW) -- Madison Police Chief Noble Wray revealed at a Friday news conference that his department is conducting three separate internal investigations regarding Officer Stephen Heimsness, separate from the officer-involved shooting of Paul Heenan on November 9, 2012.
Chief Wray said the internal reviews stemmed from allegations about Officer Heimsness' conduct that came from inside the police force and not from the public, and that while the investigations are not complete he finds the preliminary information to be "troubling".
Wray declines to describe the nature of the accusations, other than to say they do not involve the use of excessive force, "at this time."
Wray says all three incidents involving Officer Heimsness happened before the the officer shot an unarmed Paul Heenan outside a Baldwin Street home. An internal investigation by Madison Police found Heimsness' use of force was reasonable in the Heenan shooting and the Dane County District Attorney's Office found Heimsness was not criminally liable in the case. Authorities say Heenan drunkenly entered the wrong home at bar time, and grappled with the arriving Heimsness, who was responding to what was described as a burglary-in-progress call.
Thursday we learned the U.S. Department of Justice would be looking into the Heenan shooting. U.S. Attorney for the Western District John Voudreuil tells 27 News as many as one hundred letters in favor of an independent probe of the Heenan shooting convinced him to request USDOJ's Civil Rights division get involved. Voudreuil says the investigation will focus on whether Heimsness deprived Heenan of his civil rights through the use of unreasonable force.
At Friday's news conference, Chief Wray said police were made aware of one of the incidents currently under review in late October, before the Heenan shooting. But Wray said he did not consider placing Heimsness on leave at that time.
"I did not have enough information, regarding one investigation, the early investigation, to make that type of assessment."
Heenan's friend, Nathan Royko-Maurer says the revelation is difficult.
"It's tremendously disturbing," Royko-Maurer says. "If Paulie came into contact with a different officer, any other officer, who probably would have behaved with more restraint, he'd be alive."
Wray said another incident involving Heimsness was brought up shortly after the shooting and still another was brought to the department's attention recently.
Chief Wray stated he will not consider putting Officer Heimsness back on patrol until he is fully confident the three allegations under review are unfounded. Heimsness currently remains on administrative leave.
Also during Friday's news conference Chief Wray said in hindsight it was a mistake for the police department to let Heimsness remain on the schedule he kept before the Heenan shooting, which allowed Officer Heimsness to collect a little more than $1,000 in overtime since he was placed on administrative leave. You can learn more about that here in the story Tony Galli brought you first on Channel 27, WKOW.
Heimsness was previously disciplined for using excessive force in 2001, when he shot at a fleeing, suspect car in a city parking garage. Later, city officials paid a $27,000 settlement to a man who was injured during an arrest by Heimsness.
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