Heenan's friends react to MPD report on police shooting - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Heenan's friends react to MPD report on police shooting

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Photo: Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism Photo: Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

MADISON (WKOW) -- Some of Paul Heenan's close friends say they're not giving up in what they see as a fight for justice, despite a closed case at the police department.

Madison Police Chief Noble Wray said Wednesday Officer Stephen Heimsness violated no police procedures when he shot and killed an unarmed Madison man last November as Heimsness responded to a burglary call, and said Heimsness is cleared to return to duty as a patrol officer.

A group of Heenan's family and friends have been pushing for an outside investigation of the shooting, despite the report put out by the Dane County District Attorney's Office, which also cleared Heimsness of any criminal liability. They aren't satisfied by Chief Wray's firm statement during a news conference that his department's report is fair.

The group is now pushing for an overhaul of state statutes that currently allow internal investigations to be the final word in police shootings. They want a new process to keep coworkers from investigating each other.

"When your process introduces conflicts of interest that simply are unavoidable because they're built into the system, there's no way to get to a level of accountability and impartiality that is required in a situation like this," says Nathan Royko Maurer, who lived with Heenan on S. Baldwin Street.

Wray said Wednesday morning his department regrets the circumstances that led to Heenan's death and the grief it has caused his loved ones and the public.

"We know that those impacted have some challenges with community trust, we will continue to be transparent, we will listen, we will be professional and caring," says Wray.

Dan Frei, president of the local police union Madison Professional Police Officers Association, says he backs the department's decisions and defends the current internal review process. Frei says the department strives to get the clearest picture of what happened, and isn't afraid to admit when an employee makes a mistake.

Jeff Scott Olson, lawyer for the Heenan family, says there could be a good case for a civil lawsuit. He plans to review the department's report and talk with the family about what they want to do. Olson says an external investigation is needed.

"There's the possibility of real bias when you have people investigating fellow officers that they might know and like, even if there isn't any real bias in the investigation there is the appearance of bias," says Olson.

Heenan's friends and family have started a Facebook push for supporters to send letters to lawmakers and area officials to change state laws allowing internal investigations.

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