December 20, 2014

Madison attorney says outside review of police shooting would be limited

Madison’s city attorney says any further independent review of the November officer-involved fatal shooting of a man would have limited impact, considering several other agencies have already looked at the case.

In a memo to Madison Mayor Paul Soglin, attorney Michael May says that even if any independent agency determined that there should be criminal or civil action taken against the officer involved, they would not have the power to pursue action or discipline. Only the Madison Police Chief or Police and Fire Commission can do that.

The circumstances surrounding the shooting of Paul Heenan by Officer Stephen Heimsness in November were reviewed by the Dane County District Attorney’s office and the Madison Police Department. Both ruled Heimsness’ use of lethal force was “objectively reasonable”, based on the belief that he was facing a burglary suspect. Heimsness said Heenan rushed him and tried to reach for his gun.

The memo reads: “Absent a change in state law, any oversight body would be limited to the question of the MPD’s internal investigation, and could ultimately do nothing more than investigate, report and recommend.”

Family members and friends of Heenan have called for an outside review of the case.