"I have sympathy on both sides:" Christopher Manney's testimony has some seeing him in a new light

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- A handful of folks watched Sunday, March 22nd in an overflow room at the Municipal Court building as fired Milwaukee Police Officer Christopher Manney took the stand in his appeal hearing. It was the first time we've heard from Manney since he shot and killed 31-year-old Dontre Hamilton in Red Arrow Park last April.

One observer says her opinion of Manney changed after watching his testimony Sunday.

"I seen some of the sadness on his face and the regret. I have sympathy on both sides," Annalisa Geschke Papadopoulos said.

Papadopoulos says she now empathizes with Manney, but she hasn't made up her mind yet as to whether he should have lost his job over the shooting.

"I see the remorse in Officer Manney`s testimony and I also feel for Mr. Hamilton`s family," Papadopoulos said.

Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn fired Manney in October 2014, saying Manney treated Hamilton like a criminal when he decided to pat him down. It was that pat down that cost Manney his job.

“There`s a set of training and enforcements that you are taught and you don`t go hands on and start frisking somebody only because they appear to be mentally ill. Christopher Manney treated Hamilton as though he were a dangerous criminal instead of following his training,” Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn said in announcing Manney’s firing from MPD.

On December 22nd, 2014, the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office announced Manney’s “use of force” in the shooting death of Dontre Hamilton was “justified self-defense and that defense cannot be reasonably overcome to establish a basis to charge Officer Manney with a crime.”

Hearing Christopher Manney's testimony Sunday didn't change Dontre Hamilton's family's opinion of him.

"It was kind of hard to listen to him talk. All I can say is disgusting. What we`ve been saying is Christopher Manney belongs in jail. I would be emotional too if I knew I broke the law and that my life is in the hands of others," Nate Hamilton said.

Nate Hamilton said he objects to many of the statements Manney made in court -- especially one that a bulge in his brother's pocket on the day of the shooting looked like a weapon.

"It was a little baggie full of stuff. It wasn`t big bulges of stuff," Nate Hamilton said.

Christopher Manney

For two hours, as Christopher Manney testified, Dontre Hamilton's mother Maria sat just feet away from him.

"It`s a bunch of lies," Maria Hamilton said of Manney's testimony. "I`m fed up and the federal government needs to step in and dismantle this whole system."

There appeared to be more officers on hand Sunday than there were spectators in the overflow room. While watching testimony, people remained calm and respectful.

Testimony in the Manney appeal got underway on Thursday evening.

A session on Monday will be held at a new location. Instead of the Municipal Court building, Monday’s session will be held at Centennial Hall in the main branch of the Milwaukee Public Library.

A panel of three Fire and Police Commissioners will ultimately make the decision as to whether Christopher Manney should get his job back.

Phase one of the hearing is focusing on whether Manney violated police policy with his search of Hamilton. If the panel says “yes,” the hearing will go to the next phase. Phase two will determine whether Manney’s punishment (his termination from MPD) was appropriate.

In December, Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm announced Manney wouldn’t face criminal charges in this case.