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Lawmakers Press Justice Department To Speed Up Investigation Of Dontre Hamilton's Death

Two Wisconsin legislators ask the Justice Department to update the family of Dontre Hamilton, who was shot 14 times by a Milwaukee police officer, on the status of its investigation.

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Jose Luis Magana / AP

Maria Hamilton, center, the mother of Dontre Hamilton, who was killed by a police officer in a downtown park in Milwaukee speaks to group of mothers marching against police brutality at the "Million Moms March" in Washington, on Saturday, May 9, 2015.

WASHINGTON — Two Wisconsin lawmakers are pushing the Justice Department for an update on the status of the federal investigation into the death of Dontre Hamilton, who was shot 14 times by a Milwaukee police officer last April.

It's been almost seven months since the Milwaukee County District Attorney's office announced that it would not bring charges against the officer, Christopher Manney, who shot and killed Hamilton.

Now, Sen. Tammy Baldwin and Milwaukee Rep. Gwen Moore say Hamilton's family deserves an update.

"We respectfully encourage the Department of Justice to expedite these reviews and to provide the Hamilton family with an update on the status of its efforts around Dontre's death," the two lawmakers wrote.

Baldwin and Moore also requested that the Justice Department speed up its ongoing "pattern and practice" investigation into civil rights abuses by the Milwaukee Police Department.

Hamilton, 31, was said to have a history with mental illness. The circumstances around Hamilton's death sparked protests in Milwaukee, and led Moore to push for a federal review of Milwaukee police practices.

"A thorough investigation of the Milwaukee Police Department would serve justice by ensuring that public faith is restored," Moore said.

Moore has also pushed for a budget increase to fund training to help law enforcement officers avoid violent conflict with the mentally ill.

Here is the letter:

The Honorable Loretta Lynch
United States Attorney General
Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20530

Attorney General Lynch,

We write to express our concern about the slow pace of the federal review of potential civil rights violations in the officer-involved shooting death of Dontre Hamilton, and federal "pattern and practice" review of the Milwaukee Police Department. We respectfully encourage the Department of Justice to expedite these reviews and to provide the Hamilton family with an update on the status of its efforts around Dontre's death.

It has been more than fourteen months since that tragedy occurred. It has been more than six months since Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisolm declined to file charges against Office Christopher Manney in relation to the shooting and U.S. Attorney Jim Santelle announced a federal review of the case. However, according to the Hamilton family, they have not received any updates as to the status of this review.

Furthermore, U.S. Attorney Santelle began to solicit information from members of the Milwaukee community as early as October 2012 in support of a potential "pattern and practice" investigation of the Milwaukee Police Department. This announcement came after the July 2011 in-custody death of Derek Williams, which the medical examiner ruled a homicide. While we understand that the Justice Department continues to solicit community complaints about the conduct of the Milwaukee Police Department, we share the concern and frustration of the Milwaukee community with the pace of this review.

We continue to hear from Milwaukee constituents who are fearful and distrustful of law enforcement, particularly after the deaths of Derek Williams and Dontre Hamilton. We believe tangible progress on these federal investigations will help to restore trust between the Milwaukee Police Department and the broader community and can lead to the implementation of policies and practices that will better protect our officers and better serve the people of Milwaukee.

Law enforcement personnel have extremely difficult jobs and they put their lives on the line every day to help keep our communities safe. In Milwaukee, there has been an alarming increase in violence in recent months and, now more than ever, we must ensure that there is trust between police and the people they serve to help reduce crime and strengthen this community.

Thank you again for your attention to this matter, and we look forward to working with you going forward.

Sincerely,

Representative Gwen Moore
Senator Tammy Baldwin

Darren Sands is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Darren Sands at darren.sands@buzzfeed.com.

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