On August 31, 2017, unarmed Jerry Smith Jr. was paralyzed after being shot three times on a Milwaukee rooftop by police officers Melvin Finkley and Adam Stahl. This past June, Milwaukee County Chief Deputy District Attorney Kent Lovern refused to prosecute Stahl and Finkley, saying that the available evidence justified the officers’ use of deadly force. Smith, who survived the shooting and underwent multiple surgeries, suffers from partial paralysis in his right leg, and, according to Milwaukee’s Fox6News, had part of his intestine removed and suffered infections around his heart post-surgery.
According to the district attorney’s office, the police officers claimed that Smith had run from them after being involved in a street fight, escaping to a nearby rooftop. A witness had claimed that Smith was armed with a gun. The two officers who were first on the roof also claim that their view of Smith’s body was obstructed by an air conditioner vent, and they believed he was reaching for a weapon hidden inside of it, making it harder for them to determine whether or not he was armed. Officer Finkley is believed to have fired the first shot, with Officer Stahl hearing the shot and then firing his gun.
Last week, Milwaukee private investigator Daniel Storm released footage from Officer Stahl’s bodycam.
“People just need to see this,” Storm said. Police “can buy toys and all the ice cream they want but until they’re held accountable, the black community will never trust a cop.”
What the video shows is a freaking-out Officer Stahl, gun trained on Smith, yelling and cursing at Smith, screaming at him to “put your hands in the air!” Smith can be seen with his hands stretched out, fingers spread—nothing in them. At all. He is also standing a good 8-10 feet away from the nearest air-conditioning vent. Smith then begins to lie down face-first on the floor, so very clearly in submission, when shots from both officers ring out. His cellphone can be seen falling out of his pocket as he drops to the floor. He grabs at his groin—he was shot in that area, a bullet lodged in his pelvic region—and the cops continue to scream at him. He alternates between covering his head with his hands, having already been grazed by one of the bullets, and covering his groin, where he has clearly been shot. While this happens, Stahl can be loudly heard screaming, “Do not fucking move! Do not fucking move!”
Smith reaches for his groin again. Stahl repeats, “Don’t move! Do not fucking move! Stay down!” At this point, Officer Finkley comes into frame while trying to handcuff Smith. Stahl yells, “I got him! I got him!” At this point, Smith begins wailing, “Help me! Help me! Why y’all shoot me? Why y’all shoot me?”
Finally, with Officer Finkley holding one of Smith’s hands while Smith lies on his stomach, Finkley looks at Stahl as if to say, He doesn’t need to be arrested, he needs an ambulance. It is at that point that Stahl says, “Help him,” as other officers come into frame. “We need an ambulance.”
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that Smith had no weapon, was charged with no crime, and doesn’t even have one of those “no angel” police records that racists like to point to justify murdering black men. According to Storm, the witness who said Smith was armed? That was a lady involved in the original altercation, who Storm alleges was holding the only non-police weapon in this whole event—a knife. Understandably, Smith would like some justice from his government. He is suing the city for the violation of his civil rights.
To put this set of events into perspective, let’s remember 20-year-old Milwaukee man Brandon Baker. A long time ago, let’s say about two weeks ago, on Election Day, Mr. Baker began shooting an AR-15 off of his roof.
According to the criminal complaint, officers found Baker with a rifle and armed with three other guns.
When they told him to drop the gun, he refused and said he was running for governor and that he was going to start a militia.
Mr. Baker was finally “tackled” by police officers and taken into custody. Besides the fact that Baker was actually armed with a truly dangerous weapon, and the fact that he refused to comply at all with police officers’ requests, there are only two other differences between Baker’s case and Smith’s case: Baker was white, and in his case, the police officers didn’t feel the need to use deadly force.
According to the Journal Sentinel, Milwaukee’s taxpayers are paying the costs of defending the police officers against Smith’s charges.
Note: The initial headline for this diary used the term “covered up” in regard to Milwaukee officials’ handling of this case. Upon further review, Milwaukee officials were pretty transparent that they have no intention of defending the civil rights of citizens.
Warning: the video is very graphic.