Scuffle between MPD officers and suspect with mental illness sparks debate among city leaders

51st and Capitol

MILWAUKEE -- Video of a scuffle between several Milwaukee police officers and a mentally ill man is sparking debate among city leaders. It happened Wednesday, May 2 near 51st and Capitol.

The suspect and four officers all had to be taken to the hospital after the fight. Police were originally called to the scene after a woman reported the suspect kicked her door  and wasn't acting like himself. When officers arrived, he refused to listen to their commands and that's when things got out of control.

51st and Capitol

Milwaukee police body camera footage depicts a man identified by relatives as 25-year-old Demitrius Lowe, punching several officers. Witness cellphone video shows what happened when Lowe was finally on the ground. They're seen hitting him with the clubs and kicking him.

***WARNING: Video may be disturbing to some viewers***

"Any use of force is dictated by subject," said Mike Crivello with the Milwaukee Police Association.

Mike Crivello with the police union, urges the public not to rush to judgement. He says a supervisor did not allow the officers to check out Tasers for their shift the day of the incident, which could have been used right away to get the suspect under control.

51st and Capitol

"There was holsters that he was looking to recoup and he hadn't yet got them," Crivello said. "He then made the choice that then nobody gets a Taser until I get these holsters back."

Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales has placed three officers on administrative duty, a fourth is facing more serious scrutiny.

Below is cellphone video captured by viewers:

"One is on adminitrative suspension based on the actions that were seen on the video to be further investigated," said Morales.

The video is also sparking debate at City Hall.

In statements released Friday, Milwaukee Alderman Bob Donovan says, he's impressed with the restraint the officers showed.

Read Donovan's full statement below: 

"As a father of a Milwaukee Police officer, as a long-serving elected official of the City of Milwaukee for 18 years, and as a member and/or chair of the Public Safety and Health Committee for nearly all of those years, I know better than most the challenges faced daily by the good men and women of the Milwaukee Police Department.

This is why I am absolutely dumbfounded by comments I am reading from others about the arrest Wednesday of a man near N. 51st St. and W. Capitol Dr.

The officers responded to a call for help concerning an out-of-control individual who appeared to be under the influence of drugs and/or mentally disturbed. In my view from watching video of the struggle the man put up against the responding officers I am incredibly impressed with the restraint displayed by the officers.

Sources tell me that even witnesses at the scene expressed the same sentiment – that officers acted with restraint under extremely difficult circumstances.

The man was exhibiting almost super-human strength in struggling and striking out at officers. Officers used precision strikes to the man’s legs in an attempt to bring him under control (I’m told these strikes are usually 95% effective in controlling subjects) but the strikes had no impact.

The man sent three police officers to the hospital, including one with a broken nose and a blood-stained uniform.

I say ‘Thank God’ there are people willing to do this work and willingly subject themselves to this kind of situation and treatment. I am proud to stand with the men and women of the Milwaukee Police Department who put their lives and safety on the line for us on a daily basis.

I am NOT proud of the armchair quarterbacks – including members of the command staff, inspectors, elected officials and even Chief Morales – who second guess the officers’ actions as they put their lives on the line. I would love to see some of these command staff members, the Chief and elected officials step into those shoes at 51st and Capitol and see how they would react."

Meanwhile, Milwaukee Alderman Khalif Rainey wrote a statement.

Read it below: 

"The arrest by Milwaukee Police of a 25-year-old man on Wednesday in the 7th District near N. 51st St. and W. Capitol Dr. raises many questions for me.

The man’s violent struggle with multiple police officers during the arrest was captured on video by several witnesses, and it is very difficult to watch. Yesterday Police Chief Morales announced that three officers involved in the arrest have been placed on administrative duty and one officer involved is under administrative suspension.

Like many I am disturbed by the number of blows that were administered to the man by officers during the arrest and I will be looking to gather more information about this from MPD. I will be asking about standard operating procedures and whether they were followed in this case, and I will also be asking about the specifics of this entire situation (the response, attempts to calm the man/de-escalate).

With our recent history of MPD officers using force and questionable judgment against citizens (Dontre Hamilton, Sylville Smith, body cavity searches, etc.), incidents like this one continue to erode an already fragile relationship between the police and the community.

My thoughts are with all who were injured -- the officers and the man -- and I wish them all a full recovery."

Crivello says, eventually officers from a different district brought Tasers to the scene. The four officers have been released from the hospital. The suspect remains hospitalized.