A federal agency announced a full review of the investigation of last year’s officer-involved shooting of a Madison man, according to the Madison Police Department.
MPD Chief Noble Wray announced the U.S. Department of Justice initiated the review of the death of Paul Heenan, 30, at the request of the community, in a city news conference held Friday.
Heenan died as a result of a confrontation with Officer Stephan Heimsness Nov. 9, according to an MPD report. Heimsness was responding to what was reported as a robbery in progress, when he encountered an intoxicated Heenan. When Heimsness approached the situation, Heenan reportedly attempted to disarm him, causing the officer to shoot him three times, the report said.
The initial MPD investigation into the incident found Heimsness’ use of force to be objectively reasonable and within department policy. The Dane County Sheriff’s Office monitored the investigation and the State of Wisconsin Department of Justice and the Dane County District Attorney’s Office provided an additional review of the matter.
After receiving numerous letters from community members calling for an independent review of the MPD investigation of Heimsness, U.S. Attorney John Vaudreuil decided to request a review by the U.S. Department of Justice, according to the Heenan family attorney, Jeff Scott Olson.
Olson said the review will take place soon and will be conducted by the Civil Rights Department in Washington, D.C.
Mayor Paul Souglin said in a statement released Friday he has complete faith in the MPD to investigate their officers with additional assistance and review by other state and county agencies.
However, due to the questions regarding the impartiality of the MPD investigation, Soglin said he would be receptive to having an outside agency conduct an additional review of the matter.
According to a Heenan family friend, Samuel Stevenson, the announcement of the DOJ review is just what is “right” and is an essential part of the case.
“Everyone thinks it’s a positive development,” Stevenson said.
As the incident and the resulting clearing of Heimsness gained significant attention from the community, Stevenson said both the family and members of the community were not satisfied with the state’s review of the investigation.
Stevenson said the Heenan family planned to pursue additional review of the investigation for some time. The community just helped in providing support and making it a faster process, he added.
According to Olson, the community has played a large role in the Heenan case. Outraged by the shooting, they came together and began writing letters and expressing their concern, with the hope this case would be reviewed, Olson said.
Stevenson explained a major priority of the community is to ensure incidents such as these are not recurring events.
Additionally, Wray also addressed additional concerns from the community at the news conference regarding similar incidents involving Heimsness. He said he was recently made aware of three additional internal investigations into the conduct of Heimsness.
Nathan Royko Maurer, Heenan’s former roommate, said the Baldwin Street neighborhood does not feel comfortable with Heimsness going back on patrol after hearing about Heimsness’s history in the department.sa“There isn’t just one incident — there are three — and they’ve come over a brief span of time,” Maurer said. “I think it’s somewhat telling that they’re all internally generated and they’re all coming on the heels of basically the unrelenting pressure placed upon the department because of the investigation of the Paul Heenan shooting.”
Wray said he has confidence in the MPD officers and emphasized their professionalism and ability to serve our community. He added the public should share his confidence.
According to Stevenson, despite the continuing investigation into Heimsness, members of the community are still uncomfortable with the way the whole matter has been handled.
“I don’t think anyone is going to be satisfied until we can ensure this won’t ever happen again,” Stevenson said.