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Milwaukee Shooting Footage Will Not Be Released Ahead Of Investigation

By Stephen Gossett in News on Aug 22, 2016 7:27PM

Photo: Darren Hauck / Getty Images

Police body camera footage of the fatal shooting death of Sylville Smith in Milwaukee will not be made public until after an investigation is completed, Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel said on Monday.

Schimel said that keeping the video out of the public eye was necessary in order to prevent influencing witness accounts. Releasing the video sooner “would compromise the integrity of the investigation,” Schimel said, according to NBC News. “It is sometimes necessary to confront witnesses with information they didn't know or they didn't know we know.”

“I cannot have witness statements colored or tainted by what they are seeing from other sources," he added.

Smith, 23, was fatally shot by an officer on the afternoon of Aug. 13. The shooting touched off two nights of violent protest that included arson and gunfire. The incident and its aftermath also brought to national fore Milwaukee’s troubled racial history.

Police Chief Edward Flynn claims that the video—which is culled from two body cameras—shows Smith turning toward officer Dominique Heaggan while holding a gun.

Schimel said that the footage alone does not offer a full illustration of the incident. “(The cameras) give only a narrow and incomplete glimpse of the overall picture,” Schimel said, according to Reuters. “I can tell you now, viewing the body camera videos will not answer all of your questions.”

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett has called for the footage to be made public ahead of the investigation’s completion. “I want the video released,” he said, according to ABC News. “I believe the video will provide a lot of context as to what's going on.”

The topic of releasing body-camera footage after a police shooting is a familiar one here in Chicago. The city’s police accountability agency, the Independent Police Review Authority, released body-cam videos early this month that captured events before and after the fatal shooting of unarmed 18-year-old Paul O’Neal by a Chicago police officer. According to policy, the videos could have been withheld for 60 days, with the possibility of a 30-day extension; but the agency chose to make the videos public ahead of the deadline.