Ladell Harrison charged in death of MPD officer; 'I thought you guys couldn’t pursue vehicles'

Ladell Harrison

MILWAUKEE -- A Milwaukee man, 28, now faces multiple charges in connection with the death of Milwaukee Police Officer Charles Irvine Jr. The accused is Ladell Harrison. Bail was set at $500,000 as he made his initial appearance in court on Tuesday, June 12.

Prosecutors say Harrison wasn't alone during the pursuit that led to the deadly crash of the officers' squad car on Thursday, June 7.

Investigators say Harrison is a heroin dealer that undercover officers had been tracking for some time after a Waukesha County woman overdosed in 2017. Police had been using criminal informants to build a case -- buying drugs through Harrison at least four times.

Harrison faces the following criminal charges:

    "Clearly, you know, we’re all aware of the tragedy that has come along with this case, and that’s certainly not anything that we’re going to exploit or comment too much about or really if at all, and I imagine that for the most part, this will be the last time we will be speaking with you about this matter, but obviously we’re aware of it and so I think everyone, including Mr. Harrison, appreciates the gravity of the situation," Harrison's attorney said after the initial court appearance Tuesday.

    Ladell Harrison

    Officer Irvine Jr., 23, died after the violent crash near 76th and Silver Spring on the city's northwest side on Thursday evening, June 7. Irvine and his partner, Officer Matthew Schulze, 36, were in pursuit of a reckless vehicle when their squad crashed. Irvine Jr. was a police aide for two years and an officer for nearly two more.

    Charles Irvine Jr., Matthew Schulze

    Schulze, who was driving the squad at the time of the crash, was treated and released from Froedtert Hospital.

    Ladell Harrison

    The criminal complaint against Harrison details multiple incidents -- some of which happened long before the crash that caused the death of Officer Irvine Jr. Harrison faces multiple drug charges for incidents that started back in November 2017 through February 2018. Those allegedly involved heroin, cocaine and fentanyl.

    As for the June 7 crash that led to the death of Officer Irvine, the complaint says Harrison was driving a black sedan on that date. Officers Irvine Jr. and Schulze witnessed Harrison quickly change lanes at the end of the intersection at 91st and Silver Spring. The officers activated their lights and sirens to attempt to pull the car over. Squad car video shows the sedan fled "at a high rate of speed." It is estimated the sedan initially "reached speeds of 68.8 miles-per-hour." Within a minute of leaving the intersection, the complaint says the sedan obtained speeds of "84.8 miles-per-hour and was pulling away from the squad." Moments later, the sedan changed into "the bicycle lane and the squad which is pursuing it is now traveling at 91.2 miles-per-hour" as they were approaching W. Fond du Lac Avenue. The complaint indicates the sedan was "traveling at a higher rate of speed than the MPD squad."

    Milwaukee Police Department squad crash at 76th & Silver Spring

    The complaint goes on to say the sedan was passing other vehicles at speeds in excess of 95 miles-per-hour. As it approached the bridge with N. 76th Street, the "Milwaukee squad car is traveling at 96.3 miles-per-hour" -- and the sedan is "pulling away, showing it is going at a faster rate of speed. The squad cam shows that as the squad car is approaching the bridge, the squad car loses control and crashes."

    Prosecutors say the squad carrying the officers may have flipped as many as 20 times. Officer Irvine was thrown from the vehicle and later died.

    Milwaukee Police Department squad crash at 76th & Silver Spring

    Milwaukee Police Department squad crash at 76th & Silver Spring

    Other officers arriving on the scene began their search for the car Harrison was driving -- based on its description and license plate -- using details Irvine and Shulze broadcast before the crash. In their last broadcast to dispatch, they can be heard relaying the sedan's plate number before "the sounds of tires screeching can be heard," the charging documents say.

    Officers operating in an undercover vehicle later found the sedan near Fond du lac and Mill Road. Officers noticed a woman got into the car -- and Harrison, who had two small children with him, got into another vehicle -- a Lexus. The complaint says officers tracked the vehicles for about five minutes. When the two cars stopped, they were in an alley off of Bradley Road. Officers noted Harrison got out of the vehicle, the complaint says. They approached him and verbally identified themselves as police. That is when Harrison "ran to the driver's seat of a Lexus, jumped in the driver's seat and closed the door." Officers observed a small child in the back seat of the car screaming.  The complaint says the officers fanned around the car -- and ordered Harrison to exit the vehicle. When an officer tried to break the window of the car, Harrison "placed both hands in the air indicating a possible surrender. Instead of surrendering, Harrison then placed the Lexus in drive and sped away westbound in the alley."

    The complaint says at one point, Harrison told investigators he drove the Lexus past the crash at 76th and Silver Spring and stated that "he knew something bad had happened."

    The complaint says officers followed a Chevy Tahoe also associated with Harrison, which pulled into a parking lot of a business on Fond du Lac Avenue. The complaint says Harrison jumped out of the car -- and began running. A short time later, police took Harrison into custody.

    When questioned by investigators, Harrison "stated that when he fled from officers, he did so because he knew he should not be driving because his license was revoked, because he had a firearm in the car -- and he further admitted that his 5-year-old son...was in the vehicle with him." He stated he had been driving the first sedan to pick up his son from day care. During that process, Harrison said he was "playing his music very loud. He stated he was not paying attention and he noticed a police officer's marked squad that was stopped behind him at the light. He stated that he turned the music down and waited for the light to turn green." When Harrison saw the officers activate their lights and sirens, Harrison "stated that he was scared because he was carrying a semi-automatic pistol in the car and he was not supposed to be driving due to his revoked driver's license status" and because he had his son with him.

    Towards the end of their interview, Harrison told police, "I thought you guys couldn't pursue vehicles unless it was a felony." Detectives told Harrison that had once been the policy, but it had changed. Harrison "did not appear to be aware of the change in pursuit policy."

    Until last fall, Milwaukee police were only allowed to chase drivers suspected of committing a violent felony — a directive put in place in 2010 after four bystanders were killed during three separate police chases. Former police Chief Edward Flynn revised the policy after pressure from the Milwaukee Common Council and members of the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission, who were responding to public outcry over reckless drivers.

    The complaint says Harrison said he did not see when the police squad crashed as he was "so far ahead of the police that they were not in his rearview mirror."

    Harrison's 5-year-old son told investigators he was not in a car seat during the pursuit. A gun was recovered from the vehicle, the complaint says.

    The charging documents indicate Harrison's license was revoked in August of 2016 due to an OWI conviction. He was charged in February 2017 with operating while revoked due to that OWI conviction, and released on a $500 signature bond on May 30 -- nine days before the deadly crash. The documents state Harrison "failed to appear in court during the pendency of the case," and "this charge shows Harrison was aware that his driver's license was revoked at the time he fled police and caused the death of Officer Irvine."

    Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales

    Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales released the following statement in the wake of the charges being filed:

    "I commend all of those involved in this investigation. I want to thank all members of the Milwaukee Police Department, along with our partner law enforcement agencies for their quick response and assistance."

    Harrison is due back in court on June 22 for his preliminary hearing.