Medical Examiner Tranchida : Order an Inquest into the Death of Paul Heenan
Our dear friend and roommate Paulie Heenan, was shot and killed by Madison Police Officer Steven Heimsness in front of our home. Two hours before shooting our friend, Officer Heimsness told another cop "I'm the right cop for the wrong job." "No witnesses, no problem."
Officer Heimsness is being fired for making violent and bigoted comments and his inability to be trusted before and after he killed our unarmed friend but Madison Police Chief Noble Wray and District Attorney Ismeal Ozanne claim they believe he was honest in the moments when he decided to kill our unarmed, helpless friend.
After a first night back in town, out scouting bands for his new job at a local recording studio, a friend dropped Paulie off near our home. But it was dark, Paulie had been drinking, and he was new to the neighborhood -- so he didn't realize that he'd mistakenly entered our neighbor's nearly identical, unlocked home. The homeowner, Kevin O’Malley, recognized Paulie and started to help him get his bearings. Not knowing what was happening or who was downstairs with her husband, his wife Megan chose to call the police as a precaution while Kevin guided Paulie home. Neither Kevin nor Paulie knew the police were on their way.
When the police arrived, Kevin's attempt to deescalate a crisis turned into a tragic escalation and killing by a police officer.
The first officer to respond was Stephen Heimsness who has a record of 15 excessive force accusations against him resulting in 8 investigations, one sustained, and tens of thousands in city payout. Contrary to what one might expect an officer to be wearing, Heimsness arrived sporting long hair, a beard and mustache, was dressed in dark blue military shirt and pants, drove up with his police lights off, crept up on the men from half a block away, didn’t verbally identify himself as a police officer, drew his gun and began walking at the men unannounced.
The thing is, Paulie may not have known that Heimsness was an officer. When Officer Heimsness arrived on the scene, he saw man pushing another man down the sidewalk. There was no fighting, yelling or screaming for help. There were no weapons visible in either Kevin or Paulie's hands. Kevin O'Malley looked over his shoulder in the direction he was being pushed and he says he just saw a human form walking towards him. He said he thought it was another neighbor coming to assist, or possibly someone out walking their dog, before he heard the figure shout, “Get Down!” and noticed the gun pointed in his direction. At this point he let go of Paulie’s jacket, got himself out of the way of the gun and could finally see that he was looking at a police officer.
Paulie walked quickly towards officer Heimsness, who, according Kevin O’Malley’s statement, was not easily identifiable from Paulie’s point of view. Paulie was heavily intoxicated and in need of help. Paulie approached the officer, perhaps thinking it was a random man with a gun. He and Heimsness scuffled for a moment before Paulie stepped back and according to Kevin O’Malley, he looked over his shoulder in the direction of the the 2nd Officer Troumbly who was 3 feet away, with a taser. Paulie then brought his hands to his chest and began to lower himself. At this time, Heimsness squared up and shot Paulie three times in the chest, the first round going through his hand, to his chest. Kevin states he repeatedly yelled at Heimsness, "He's a neighbor!" trying to stop Officer Heimsness prior to the shots fired. Officer Heimsness knew he had backup approaching but he didn't wait. He didn't see a weapon but he kept his gun out.
He, with 15 years of experience and a arsenal on his belt and extensive training in hand to hand combat, chose to use the last resort first and shoot an unarmed man three times, a unarmed man who's hands were going up.
In the first of many statements explaining why he chose to kill Paulie, officer Heimsness never once mentioned fearing for his life. He said he was "pissed" at Paulie for making him kill him. He said he had to protect his gun to keep it active. After some apparent coaching by a detective, officer Heimsness eventually claimed that he feared for his life and it was because of that statement that he was cleared of any wrongdoing.
Too many important questions remain unanswered about Officer Heimsness' whereabouts 48 hours prior to his shift, his mental fitness, potential drug use, attitude when undermined, whether he truly feared for his life, when he decided to kill and why he would shoot an unarmed man three times who had begun to obey his orders.
An inquest into Paulie Heenan's death would represent the first opportunity for the case to be reviewed and perhaps investigated by a group of people who have nothing to lose or gain from the outcome (e.g. a special prosecutor and a jury). Critical questions remain unanswered about the events surrounding Paulie Heenan's death that appear to have been conveniently avoided by Madison police detectives and Dane County District Attorney Ozanne.
So far this case has been investigated by detectives who’ve stated that they care deeply about Stephen Heimsness, detectives that work on the same police force as Stephen Heimsness and whose reputations are affected by a negative outcome. The separate departments that have reviewed the case are rife with conflicts of interest including marriages and life-long friendships. District Attorney Ozanne must pass his authority to charge Officer Heimsness to a jury and his power to prosecute to an objectively impartial special prosecutor since he willingly admitted he has many good friends on the police force leaving great potential for bias in his own decision making process.
Just as a brother wouldn't sit on the jury of his own sister's trial, our criminal justice system must also operate without the appearance and great potential for bias. Currently, they do not and both Madison's Chief of Police Noble Wray and Madison's Mayor, Paul Soglin agree. We demand Madison take the life saving steps towards better training, screening and unbiased investigations starting with an objectively impartial inquest into the events of Paulie Heenan's death.
NEW INFORMATION SUPPORTS NEED FOR INQUEST 6/25/2013
Officer Heimsness is being fired on 118 counts of policy violations that took place from August 2012 until November 2012 that include harassment, violent threats, disrespect and dishonesty. Chief Wray is firing him on the premise that his judgment and ability to serve honestly can't be trusted. The 2nd to last policy violation took place 2 hours before Officer Heimsness killed Paulie Heenan when he wrote this comment: "I'm the right cop for the wrong job. No witnesses, no problem". This comment along with several other previous comments in which Heimsness lied, harassed, impulsively ranted and threatened co-workers with violence would suggest that his intentions that night with Paul Heenan deserve a deeper look.
Please join us in calling on District Attorney Ismael Ozanne and Medical Examiner, Dr. Vincent Tranchida to order an objectively impartial inquest into the actions of Officer Heimsness that led to the death of Paulie Heenan.
Critical questions about Paul Heenan's death remain unanswered and appear to have been conveniently avoided by the investigation process. The lead detective publicly stated that the subject of her investigation, Officer Heimsness, was "like family". We cannot trust her work to be objective or impartial. District Attorney Ozanne, you publicly admitted to having life-long friends in the Madison Police Department and Dane County Sheriff's office, leaving the appearance and great potential for bias in your decision making process.
Please do what is right by the Madison community, the key witness, who also deserves honest representation, the police officers who strive for truth and excellence and of course, the deceased, Paulie Heenan, and his family.
Some things to consider:
1.) Officer Heimsness was cleared by D.A. Ozanne and Chief Wray under the premise that he was trustworthy and he's being fired under the premise that he cannot be trusted. He lied in an investigation before and after Paulie's death.
2.) Had a civilian with Heimsness' record said "I'm the right cop for the wrong job, no witnesses, no problem" 2 hours before killing an unarmed man, Chief Wray and D.A. Ozanne would know as much about him as they know about Paulie. Please, level the playing field and investigate the killer as they did, the deceased. Paulie had no where near the troubling record as their officer does.
3.) Did Troumbly see Heimsness look at her? Did anyone ask? How did Officer Troumbly feel about Heimsness' shooting Paulie when she was right there with a taser? Did Officer Troumbly see Paulie look at her? Did anyone ask? At what point did Heimsness decide he was going to shoot to kill? Has a movement expert examined what position Paulie was in and why? Did anyone ask? Why did Heimsness not wait 3 seconds for back to make it up the street, knowing from his 15 years of extensive training that, it would minimize the potential for a deadly outcome? Did anyone ask? No. The answers to these and other questions matter more than the nature of the 911 call because they are about what was really going on before Heimsness' eyes.
4.) A 911 Call should and normally, does not solely determine an outcome of a scene, investigation or case. Had Heimsness been called to a B&E and found a rape in progress, would he have run past it to find the B&E? Had he not found one, would he have just, left?
5.) What is the "Reasonable Officer" model D.A. Ozanne is using to forgo even ordering an inquest? He doesn't need proof of intent to order an inquest through a jury. He's intentionally leaving stones unturned. Why? He is keeping this investigation from being as unbiased and informed as it can be.
6.) What harm could choosing an inquest by jury cause to D.A. Ozanne? What are his real reasons for not doing this? Are they more important than the community and police department's confidence that law enforcement and oversight is as true and good as it can be?
Please, Officer Heimsness is an anomaly in what is an otherwise outstanding department. By leaving stones unturned and moving on without demanding a fair and thorough investigation, you too are becoming part of the anomaly and setting a precedent for a new standard, a new, deadly Madison.
Please, order inquest by jury into the death of Paulie Heenan and ensure the process is as unbiased and just as possible.