Defense Calls for but Doesn’t Get Mistrial After Bodycam Footage of Sylville Smith’s Fatal Shooting Is Shown in Court

Dominique Heaggan-Brown (Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office)
Dominique Heaggan-Brown (Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office)

During the Wednesday-afternoon session of former Milwaukee Police Officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown’s reckless homicide trial in the death of Sylville Smith, the public was able to see for the first time the shooting that sparked two nights of unrest in the city in August 2016.


The video clip is short and shows then-Milwaukee Police Officer Ndvia Malafa, who was with Heaggan-Brown at the time of the shooting, running behind his colleague as they chase Smith between two houses, Fox6 News reports. Smith is seen with the handgun in his right hand before lifting his arm to toss it over a fence.


Heaggan-Brown fires one shot, causing Smith to fall to the ground. That shot hits Smith in his bicep. Approximately 1.69 seconds after the first shot, Smith is shot again while still on the ground, this time at close range, in the chest.

Malafa currently works as an officer with the Menomenee Falls, Wis., Police Department, Fox6 News notes. The bodycam footage shown was from his perspective.

According to Fox6 News, the video caused some of Smith’s relatives to storm out of the courtroom in tears.

“Actually seeing why I’m not gonna see him again is even harder to deal with [than the day of the shooting],” Smith’s brother Sedan told the news station.


The display of emotion—perhaps natural for people witnessing their loved one being gunned down—prompted the defense to call for a mistrial, arguing that it could influence the jury.


“There’s at least one young man doubled over, and at some point he stood up and left,” defense attorney Steven Kohn said. “That is an editorial comment that is injected into these proceedings.”

Judge Jeffery A. Conen rejected the request, saying that he believes that jurors could understand the reaction from Smith’s loved ones while keeping focused on the job they had to do.


“That just seems absurd for someone to be able to stomach and watch their loved one die without any type of emotion,” Sedan Smith added. “There’s no way that can happen.”

The news station notes that as the trial proceeds, it is expected that bodycam footage from Heaggan-Brown’s perspective will also be viewed.


Editor’s note: Video footage below contains imagery that some may find upsetting.


Read more at Fox6 Now.

News Editor at The Root, animation nerd, soca junkie, yogi

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Fred Underwood

“Your honor, the video evidence of this murder is prejudicial in that it shows a murder. How am I supposed to defend against that? Not fair!”