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Thursday, December 25, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 35.0° F  Overcast
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Poor word choice

The article on Paulie Heenan, the local musician killed by Madison police officer Steve Heimsness, states, "An internal investigation later cleared Heimsness" in the 2006 excessive force incident ("Cop and Shooting Victim Both Involved With Local Bands," 11/16/2012). I'd argue with the word "cleared." From the MPD investigation file on the incident, in which Heimsness dealt with an assault suspect at State Street Brats: "Conclusion. It is my belief that this complaint should be classified as not sustained. I am making it not sustained because I cannot say for certain that each kick or knee strike to the head was inadvertent."

All non-police witnesses who spoke on the matter flatly contradicted Heimsness' account that Bauer's head was covered by a coat while Heimsness was applying blows. On this and other details, it would appear that Heimsness' account of events was not fully truthful.

Witness Garret Alexander describing Heimsness' kicks to Jacob Bauer's head and face: "the sound was kind of gruesome. It sounded like something being smashed like a pumpkin." Bartender Elissa Parker's 911 call seeking help: "They were kicking him in the head and stomping on his face and bending his neck over to the side, and he's out now and there's blood everywhere and it's very Rodney King-esque."

This is not to demonize Heimsness, whom I've met and liked in other contexts. But there does appear to be a pattern, enabled by MPD.

Gregory Gelembiuk

Scott Gordon replies: MPD's investigation into the 2006 incident found the allegations against Heimsness to be "not sustained," which even Chief Wray points out does not necessarily mean that he was exonerated. My aim was to sum up Heimsness' disciplinary record without drawing undue conclusions or convicting him in print, just as I would try to do if writing about a suspect charged with a crime. Nonetheless, I should have chosen a more precise term than "cleared."

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