Witness account of officer-involved shooting is very different from police account

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- A Starbucks barista is giving a very different account of the shooting in Red Arrow Park last week. Her story provides more details than the police version of events. She wrote about what happened on Wednesday, April 30th -- and it's an account Dontre Hamilton's family has already shared with friends.

The Starbucks at Red Arrow Park is moving towards business as usual.

The temporary coffee trailer used during remodeling is moving out. The servers who worked there are moving back into the business -- including one who witnessed last week's fatal officer-involved shooting.

31-year-old Dontre Hamilton was shot and killed by a Milwaukee police officer.

The barista posted her account of what happened on OccupyRiverwest.com.

On Monday, May 5th, the story was read by Nate Hamilton -- Dontre's brother.

Police say Dontre was shot after he struggled with an officer, took the officer's baton, and hit the officer in the head before the shooting.

The barista's account says she never saw Dontre Hamilton strike the officer with the baton.

It is only one witness account of several, but it reveals additional details.

The Starbucks worker writes of three encounters with police between 1:00 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Two times, employees called the police, and officers checked up on Dontre Hamilton, who was sleeping near the Red Arrow Park statue.

Law enforcement officials allowed Hamilton to sleep. The barista wrote: "It was so obvious to me that Dontre was doing nothing illegal."

Around 3:30 p.m., she says a beat cop showed up.

"I didn't see the beginning of the fight," the barista writes.

The barista says she heard shouting, saw that Hamilton had a baton -- and viewed the officer's response.

"He had his gun pointed at Dontre from about 10 feet away," the barista writes.

Nate Hamilton, Dontre's brother, says his family believes Dontre was defending himself -- and the story that was published by the barista supports that theory.

"I don't want to say what I consider police brutality. I just want to say this was a bad decision on maybe an officer's behalf," Nate Hamilton said.

Police would not comment on this story as it is part of an ongoing investigation -- but did confirm the account's author was officially questioned.

Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn said last week the officer was defending himself in a violent situation.

Dontre Hamilton's family says he was not on his medication for schizophrenia at the time of the shooting -- and that played a role in what happened.

In a press conference after the shooting, Chief Flynn said more needs to be done to help those suffering from mental illness -- and to protect officers and the general public from those with mental illness who become violent.

Chief Flynn says the system in place to help people like Dontre Hamilton, who suffer from mental illness, is failing. That’s putting both police officers and the public in danger.

“We must not lose sight of the fact that once again, a violent confrontation occurred on the street between an officer and a violent, combative, mentally ill individual,” Chief Flynn said after the shooting.

Chief Flynn said the case involving Hamilton isn't the first involving an individual with mental illness who turned violent.

Chief Flynn said every year, the Milwaukee Police Department responds to more than 7,000 calls involving mentally ill individuals. That’s an average of about 26 calls a day.

Since 2005, there have been over 50,000 emergency detentions brought by MPD to the Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex — according to Chief Flynn.

Additionally, Chief Flynn says three of the four fatal police shootings last year involved mentally ill suspects who were armed — including a mentally ill person shot and killed inside Milwaukee’s downtown Transit Center in November.

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On Wednesday, May 7th, on the one-week anniversary of the shooting, Hamilton's family says 31 balloons will be released at Red Arrow Park at 2:00 p.m.

CLICK HERE to read the Starbucks barista's account of what happened inside Red Arrow Park via OccupyRiverwest.com.