Nathan Royko Maurer: 'This ups the ante of the tragedy, because it sounds like it was even more preventable than we already felt it was.'
The officer who shot and killed Paul Heenan Nov. 9 on South Baldwin Street is now being investigated for three earlier incidents, Madison Police Chief Noble Wray announced at a news conference Friday.
Wray called the preliminary information regarding the three investigations "troubling" but maintained that Stephen Heimsness' actions on Nov. 9 were still "objectionably reasonable."
Because the three investigations are ongoing, Wray would not disclose any details on the incidents but said they all differ in nature. When asked if any involve the excessive use of force, Wray answered, "At this time, no."
Only one of the three incidents came to the department's attention prior to the shooting. That was in late October and an internal investigation was subsequently launched.
Another was learned of "just after the shooting" while the last came to light "more recently," said Wray. He did not supply specific dates for when these incidents took place.
Wray was asked why Heimsness was not placed on administrative leave when the chief learned of the first incident in October. "I did not have enough information regarding the earlier investigation to make that type of assessment," he said. The investigation of that incident was then shelved after Heenan's death in order to complete the shooting investigation.
But Wray said he concluded this week that Heimsness should now remain on administrative leave until the three investigations are completed.
All three complaints originated internally from police staff, according to Wray. He said he could not predict when the department would finish its investigations, but he said Heimsness would not return to patrol until the investigations are complete and his concerns are relieved. He also added he's been aware of a number of "threats" made against Heimsness.
Nathan Royko Maurer, a roommate of Heenan's, attended Wray's announcement and sat in the front row.
"This ups the ante of the tragedy, because it sounds like it was even more preventable than we already felt it was," he said after the news conference concluded.
When asked if any of the three new incidents could result in Heimsness' termination, Wray said he could not answer.
Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne and Wray cleared Heimsness of any wrongdoing for the shooting after an internal investigation was conducted. Family, friends and other community members have called for an external review of the case, and on Thursday it was reported the U.S. Department of Justice was opening an investigation.
In a letter released Friday, Wray said he welcomes the review and has already sent the original investigative file to the DOJ. Madison Mayor Paul Soglin also issued a statement stating that he is withholding comments on the Nov. 9 shooting at the recommendation of the city attorney.
Heimsness has a history of complaints. He was suspended for 15 days in 2001 after shooting out the tires of a fleeing vehicle. In 2006, the city of Madison paid a $27,000 settlement for an excessive force claim after Heimsness allegedly kicked and punched a bar patron during an arrest.
"I want to say I continue to feel great remorse and sadness for Paul Heenan's family," Wray said. "My heart also goes out to the Baldwin Street community, and particularly, the O'Malley family.
"I am also concerned for the well-being of Officer Heimsness, his family and the members of this department who have been impacted by this incident."