MILWAUKEE (AP) — The family of a man killed by a Milwaukee police officer marked the anniversary of his death Thursday with a march and a celebration of his life in the downtown park where he was shot.
“This is about unity, this is about peace,” said Nate Hamilton, brother of 31-year-old Dontre Hamilton, who was fatally shot by officer Christopher Manney on April 30, 2014. “This is about community coming together on this day because Dontre has awakened the nature of Milwaukee to be different, to learn how to love, to learn how to care, to learn how to support one another.”
He made the comments before marching to the park with about 50 others, including his mother, Maria Hamilton and brother, Dameion Perkins.
The marchers sang “We Shall Overcome,” chanted “Whose day? Dontre’s day” and held signs that read “We demand federal criminal charges.” About two dozen officers on bikes escorted them as others closed down streets for them.
It comes as Baltimore recovers from rioting and looting after the funeral on Monday of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who died from a spinal-cord injury while in police custody.
Nate Hamilton said Wednesday that he doesn’t believe violence and destruction help. The protests and rallies in Milwaukee over the last year have been largely peaceful.
On Thursday, the marchers arrived at the park to food and music. Before long, the family and a few others laid on the ground.
“Do I look like someone you should shoot 14 times?” Nate Hamilton said into a loudspeaker, emulating his brother who had laid down to sleep in the park when police were called to check on him.
According to Manney’s account, Hamilton, who was black, grabbed the officer’s baton and attacked him with it, and the officer opened fire. He shot Hamilton 14 times.
Hamilton’s family has said he suffered from schizophrenia but was not violent.
A new memorial also was on display Thursday, with candles and painted rocks at the spot where Hamilton died. A rally, a vigil, a balloon launch and face painting also were planned.
Nate Hamilton said his family has been concentrating on positive responses, such as helping persuade the city to ensure all police officers are fully trained to deal with the mentally ill by 2018.
Maria Hamilton has started a support group for mothers whose children have died in police encounters, and plans a “Million Moms” march in Washington over Mother’s Day weekend.
Chief Edward Flynn later fired Manney because he said the officer improperly started an unwarranted pat-down of Hamilton. A panel of police commissioners agreed with Flynn’s decision last month. Manney’s attorney says he plans to appeal in court.
Federal investigators are reviewing Hamilton’s shooting to determine if Manney violated U.S. civil rights laws. The family also is considering filing a civil lawsuit but is waiting for the federal investigation to finish, according to Jon Safran, an attorney for the Hamiltons.
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