Officer found to be 'in compliance' in shooting case
An internal Madison Police Department investigation of a Madison police officer involved in the shooting death of Paul Heenan found the officer to be in compliance with police department policies and training.
The ruling was announced during a news conference with Madison Police Chief Noble Wray Wednesday.
In the report, Wray stated that it’s undisputed that Heenan, 30, didn’t comply with Heimsness’ commands and became physically engaged with officer Heimsness in the Nov. 9 incident in the 500 block of Baldwin Street.
Wray's report stated that Heimness saw two men in a struggle as he was responding to a report of a burglary in the area. The officer drew his gun and gave loud verbal commands.
He said Heenan didn't follow Heimsness' commands and Heenan moved quickly toward the officer. The report stated officer Heimness had the impression Heenan was attempting to grab his handgun.
"Officer Heimsness believed he was in imminent danger of being disarmed and that his life was in imminent danger," according to the report.
Heimsness fired three shots after getting distance between him and Heenan and struck Heenan with all three shots, according to the report.
Fifteen seconds passed between when Heimsness saw the struggle between the homeowner and when shots were fired, according to the investigation.
A video was played during the news conference showing a neighbor, Kevin O'Malley, explaining to officers the details of how the shooting occurred.
O'Malley said Heimness, after deadly shots fired, looked to other police officer and said, "He went for my gun."
The report stated, "Confronting potential burglary suspects is a high-risk and dangerous activity for police officers; officers are trained to address such suspects at gunpoint."
"I deeply regret the tragic circumstances leading to the death of Paul Heenan," Wray said.
Dane County prosecutors cleared Heimsness any criminal wrongdoing in connection with Heenan's shooting.
In his ruling on the case, Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne said a homeowner awoke to find his neighbor, Heenan, in his house.
The homeowner's wife called Madison police, reporting a home burglary. It was later discovered that Heenan was new to the neighborhood and attempted entering the wrong house. Heenan had been drinking and was confused, according to police.
Prosecutors said Heenan had a blood-alcohol content of 0.208 percent.
"I don't believe this could happen to just anyone. People every day in our community are intoxicated. Yet they still don't go up to people's homes and open doors in the middle of the night. That doesn't happen," Ozanne said.
Ozanne said Heimsness saw two men in a physical struggle on the sidewalk near 513 S. Baldwin St. and he recognized one of the men as the husband of the woman who had reported the break-in.
According to Ozanne's statement, Heimsness and the homeowner said Heenan charged Heimsness, who had his gun drawn and was giving commands for Heenan to get on the ground.
Ozanne concluded Heimsness didn't violate any statutes. The prosecutor said anyone who believes he or she faces a genuine threat of deadly force can respond with deadly force.
The homeowner told police he believed Heenan was drunk and he was attempting to take him to his house down the street. He said Heenan had come at him and was pushing him backwards.
Ozanne said evidence, including witness statements, officer statements, physical evidence, State Crime Lab findings and Medical Examiner findings are consistent with each other.
There has been an increased level of scrutiny surrounding Heimsness because of his use of force in two separate incidents.
In 2006, Heimsness reportedly kneed and kicked a man he was arresting at a downtown bar, which the Madison Police Department determined was within reason for the situation. But the City of Madison settled a $27,000 deal with the man's attorney after witnesses said that he was intentionally struck in the head by Heimsness in the incident.
In 2001, Heimsness fired his gun, shooting out the front tires of a car in a university-area parking garage. Heimsness said he thought the driver was going to hit him. He was suspended without pay for 15 days for the incident.
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