UPDATE: MPD releases new details in officer-involved shooting - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

UPDATE: MPD releases new details in officer-involved shooting

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Paul Heenan / Facebook Photo Paul Heenan / Facebook Photo
Officer Stephen Heimsness Officer Stephen Heimsness

MADISON (WKOW) -- Madison's police chief defends the officer who shot and killed an unarmed man last week, but says an investigation is underway.

Chief Noble Wray held a press conference with the media Monday afternoon, hoping to lay out what the department believes to be the timeline of what happened early Friday morning.

Wray says around 2:45 a.m. a woman called 911 to report a break-in. When officer Stephen Heimsness arrived on scene, two men were struggling outside the home on South Baldwin Street. According to reports from the officers, Heimsness immediately took out his gun and told the two men to get down, assuming one was the suspected burglar.

Paul Heenan, 30, didn't obey those commands, and instead came towards the officer. Heimsness and the homeowner reported that Heenan got into a confrontation with Heimsness, that Heenan grabbed his arm and tried to reach for his gun. That's when Heimsness fired three shots, killing Heenan.

Later, the department learned Heenan lived on the street and the homeowner knew him. He mistakenly went into his neighbor's house that morning, with no intention of burglary. Heenan had gotten into a physical struggle with the homeowner, after that man realized Heenan was his neighbor and tried to help him get home.

Wray says Heenan had a pocket knife on him, but at no time during the confrontation did he attempt to use it. He is considered unarmed in this investigation.

As of right now, the department does not have any squad car video to corroborate officer or witness accounts of the incident.

When asked whether the use of deadly force was justified, Chief Wray said that Heimsness's actions may have been appropriate to the type of situation he thought he was responding to -- an active burglary.

"The struggle that took place between Officer Heimsness and Mr. Heenan I think did produce a deadly force situation," says Wray. "Any time you get a citizen in close proximity to a police officer and their weapon becomes part of the issue, in that close proximity -- it's an aggressive move."

Madison police training teaches officers to arm themselves with a gun when there is potential for deadly force, but officers also are equipped with a baton, chemical spray and some have tasers.

MPD policy states, in part:

"The use of deadly force is only authorized when, under any of the following circumstances, an officer reasonably believes a lesser degree of force would be insufficient:

-- In defense of one's self, when there is reasonable cause to believe one is in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm.

-- To effect the arrest or prevent the escape of a suspect who the officer has reasonable cause to believe has committed, or attempted to commit, a felony involving the use or threatened use of deadly force, when a high probability exists that suspect if not immediately apprehended, may cause death or great bodily harm."

Officer Heimsness' use of force is something that he has been questioned about and disciplined for in the past. Records show in 2001, Heimsness was suspended for 15 days after he fired shots at a fleeing car in a city parking garage. That was during Richard Williams' time as Madison police chief.

Chief Wray says under his command, any suspension between 15 and 30 days could be grounds for termination.

In 2006, Heimsness was accused of using excessive force while arresting a man in a Madison bar. In that case, the city paid a $27,000 settlement to the man, over Heimsness' actions in the bar, but an internal police investigation found the claims of abuse were not sustained, because of conflicting statements from both sides.

Heimsness does have a commendation on his record. In 2003 he was recognized for preventing a sexual assault suspect from escaping.

Chief Wray says he stands behind those former police investigations, but does not know what the outcome of the current one will bring.

Heimsness is on administrative leave right now, in addition to another responding officer, Stacy Troumbly, who provided emergency medical services to Heenan on scene.

Chief Wray says like any other officer-involved shooting, the department will forward its investigation to the District Attorney's office this week. The police department will also begin an internal investigation into whether Heimsness properly followed department policy and procedure. The Dane County Sheriff's Office is assisting with that work.

Moving forward, MPD also plans to schedule community meetings to keep the public informed about the investigation.

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MADISON (WKOW) -- On Monday, Madison police chief Noble Wray laid out a timeline, trying to give a clearer picture of what happened during an officer-involved shooting Friday morning.

Wray explained that Officer Stephen Heimsness arrived on scene, after a homeowner on South Baldwin Street called 911 reporting a burglary. Heimsness saw a struggle between two men outside of the home, around 2:45 on Friday morning. Wray says Heimsness pulled out his gun and repeatedly ordered both men to get down on the ground.

According to reports from witnesses and Heimsness, one of those men, 30-year-old Paul Heenan, did not get down, and instead started coming towards Heimsness, who had his gun drawn.

Wray said reports show Heenan grabbed Heimsness' left hand and reached towards the gun with his right hand. Wray says Heimsness believed he was in danger and fired three times, killing Heenan.

Wray says in a high risk situation like a possible burglary, it's police procedure to use a weapon.

"It is reasonable, objectively reasonable for Officer Heimsness to have pulled out his service weapon at that particular time," said Wray.

Wray says Heenan was not attempting a burglary, he was a neighbor, who tried going into the wrong home. When the homeowner tried to help him get home, that's when their struggle began.

Chief Wray said the department will do an internal investigation of whether department policy was followed during the incident and will forward its investigation to the D.A.'s office this week.

27 News' Jennifer Kliese will have more on the investigation coming up on 27 News at 10.

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