Independent reviewer: Manney's pat down of Dontre Hamilton was "reasonable and justified"

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- In the eight months since Dontre Hamilton was shot and killed by former Milwaukee Police Officer Christopher Manney, there has been a lot of talk about the use of deadly force, but what about the pat down that started it all?

Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn fired Manney in October, saying Manney treated Hamilton like a criminal when he decided to pat him down.

It is that pat down that led to Hamilton's death.

New documents released following Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm's decision not to criminally charge Manney in Hamilton's death suggest there's a difference of opinion regarding when police can and cannot legally perform pat downs on the street in Wisconsin.

"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," Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn said in announcing Manney's firing from MPD.

That's why Christopher Manney lost his job.

"Christopher Manney treated Hamilton as a dangerous criminal instead of following his training," Chief Flynn said.

Reports released on Monday, December 22nd though suggest Manney may have done everything right.

Greenfield Police Lt. Patrick Martin trains police officers at MATC. In his independent review of the Hamilton case, Lt. Martin says Manney's decision to frisk Hamilton was reasonable and justified.


Because Hamilton, woken from sleep, "abruptly opened his eyes and started at Officer Manney, and when he stood up, like he was asked, he faced away from the police officer. How Hamilton was standing and how he looked at the officer would lead an officer to believe Mr. Hamilton was armed," Lt. Martin writes.

That's an opinion very much at odds with what Chief Flynn said in announcing Manney's firing this fall.

"Bad tactics and bad decisions resulted in this escalation that resulted in the use of deadly force," Chief Flynn said.

Documents released Monday also shed light on what Manney was thinking on April 30th, when he approached Dontre Hamilton. Manney says he thought Hamilton was on drugs or suffering from mental illness because he wasn't blinking -- saying his eyes were fixated on the police officer.

Manney told investigators he had taken numerous deadly weapons from homeless people in the past, and in 2013, a homeless man had allegedly attacked him with an industrial screw.

The documents show Manney said homeless people are often irrational, they often use drugs, and they're potentially dangerous.

So was Manney's belief enough to justify him patting down Dontre Hamilton in the first place?

It's a difference of opinion that could change everything in an instant.

The pat down is considered what's called a "stop and frisk" -- otherwise known as a terry stop. Under the Fourth Amendment, police must reasonably believe a person is armed and dangerous before they conduct a pat down.

Chief Flynn has said he doesn't think Manney had reason to believe Hamilton was dangerous, but the very experts relied upon as this case was investigated seem to disagree.

FOX6 News attempted to contact Lt. Martin -- and he did not return our calls.

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