A Milwaukee woman is considering filing a lawsuit after she said officers negligently allowed her African American boyfriend, Derek Williams, to die in a police car, despite his pleas for help when he couldn’t breathe.
After being arrested for a robbery, Williams was contained in the back of the car for eight minutes, progressively growing weaker and flailing around the seat. A handful of officers who chose to testify said they believed he was faking it.
"Mistake, misperception, negligence or poor judgment are not sufficient" to bring federal charges, U.S. Attorney James Santelle said.
Special prosecutor John Franke also doubted that he could prove the officers guilty without a reasonable doubt.
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When the FBI investigated the case, they found no medical evidence that police used excessive force on Williams or knowingly ignored his medical distress. The agency also noted that the surveillance camera does not show the officers’ perspective, and that the infrared camera showed a clearer image of that night than the officers could see for themselves. Additionally, the glare of the plastic window between the officers and the back seat could have compromised an accurate viewing of Williams.
Williams’ mother Sonya Moore passionately disagreed, saying that anyone who watched the video would not that some wrongdoing had occurred. Robin Shellow, Moore’s attorney, called the Milwaukee justice system racist, stating that the lives of black men are undervalued.
“I believe anyone who saw and heard the video will feel that there was a willful disregard of getting medical attention for Derek Williams,” Attorney Jonathan Safran, who repsents Williams’ girlfriend Sharday Rose, said. “Despite what infrared camera there might have been, despite what people might have been able to see, we at least all heard it.”
Safran says a civil lawsuit may be in the works, in the hopes that someone will be held accountable for Williams’ death.