Williams died while in police custody in July of 2011. On Monday, Milwaukee’s District Attorney John Chisholm and Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn announced an inquest into Williams’ death, after an amended Medical Examiner’s report changed Williams’ cause of death from Sickle cell trait to homicide (death at the hands of another).
In July 2011, Milwaukee police say they chased Williams, who was wearing a mask, near Center and Holton. The officers took him into custody and placed him inside their squad car. That’s when police say Williams passed out in the back seat, and was not breathing.
Dashcam video shows Williams apparently struggling to breathe while under arrest for robbery. Not long after this, Williams was pronounced dead. Officers attempted to revive Williams, but were unsuccessful.
Chief Flynn and his department have been under public scrutiny since the Medical Examiner’s report was amended and the dashcam video was released.
Chief Flynn discussed the case with FOX6 News Wednesday, September 26th, saying though the cause of death in this case is now homicide, Chief Flynn told FOX6 News that does not mean someone willfully killed Williams — just that he would not have died if it weren’t for “human intervention.”
“As tragic as this death was, the individual involved had just been in a foot pursuit, climbed a fence, lost his shirt, stuck on the fence, hidden from the police, been captured by the police, briefly struggled, and handcuffed. There certainly was a lot of human intervention,” Chief Flynn said.
Chief Flynn said he does acknowledge his officers made an error in judgement when responding to Williams’ cries for help.
“Doesn’t mean we don’t take responsibility for not reacting more rapidly to his medical crisis,” Chief Flynn said.
Dr. Brian Peterson with the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office said Williams' cause of death has been changed from natural causes to homicide, though Dr. Peterson says the physical cause of death is still the same.
"Why he actually died was asphyxia based on his red cells assuming an odd shape and jamming up his blood vessels," Dr. Peterson said.
After Williams' death was ruled a homicide, an attorney representing Williams' family attacked the Medical Examiner's Office.
"There was a conspiracy to obstruct justice here and it was a conspiracy that contained a member of the District Attorney's Office, the chief of police as well as the Medical Examiner," Attorney Robin Shellow said.
"With respect to a conspiracy, I've never had a ride in a black helicopter. I don't even have the T-shirt. So the thing is, everything I do is open to public scrutiny," Dr. Peterson said.
Assistant Medical Examiner, Dr. Christopher Poulos conducted Williams' initial autopsy and ruled Williams' death due to natural causes. In a statement to FOX6 News, Dr. Poulos said: "I made my decisions regarding the death of Derek Williams based upon secondary information, which I believed to have been sufficient at the time of my assigning the original cause and manner of death. The Milwaukee Police Department and District Attorney's Office would have made the police reports and the squad car video available, if I had requested them. When it was brought to my attention that these primary sources contained relevant information that was not contained within the secondary sources, I requested that the Chief Medical Examiner, Dr. Brian Peterson, review the case with me. After he reviewed the original case and the new data, the cause and manner of death were changed and the relevant parties were immediately notified."
"In this case, we didn't initially get our hands on the full police report, although it was available within a week and a half of the death, and I'll make sure the policy states that we will going forward," Dr. Peterson said.
Milwaukee Common Council President Willie Hines said he hopes Friday's meeting will clear up some of the lingering questions.
"We want to listen, but we also want to ask a number of questions and make certain that there are a sufficient amount of answers as well," Hines said.
CLICK HERE for additional coverage on the Derek Williams' death investigation via FOX6Now.com.