AFRICANGLOBE – Jerry Smith Jr. was shot by Milwaukee Police in August of 2017 while unarmed. Smith, who was holding only a cell phone, is seen spreading his arms and going to the ground when police opened fire in a newly released body camera video.
Police were responding to a call about an armed man and were heard discussing a possible gun prior to the shooting on the body cam video. They were later heard questioning where the gun was after Smith was shot multiple times and screaming for help.
Prosecutors determined that the shooting was justified after two officers said they believed Smith was armed and they were in danger. Smith’s attorney is calling for prosecutors to reconsider their decision not to charge the officers.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Police Shot Jerry Smith Jr. While Responding to Call About an Armed Man
Police officers involved in the shooting were allegedly responding to a call of an unarmed man who apparently matched Smith’s description. Officers believed Smith had a gun.
According to Smith’s attorneys, he was holding only a cell phone to call his mother.
“An unarmed man had committed no crime, no criminal history, no drugs and is getting on the ground with his fingers spread when the officer opened fire,” Daniel Storm, a forensic investigator working with Smith’s attorney Walter Stern, told reporters. “Lucky to be alive because the one bullet just grazed his head.”
2. Body Cam Video Shows Jerry Smith Jr. Complying With Police Orders
Body camera footage provided by Smith’s lawyers shows officers discussing a gun while jumping on to a roof where Smith was standing. Smith is seen spreading his arms as officers yell at him to put his hands in the air. He lowers his arms as he goes to kneel down, at which point an officer opens fire.
The video stops when Smith drops to the ground and an officer is later seen handcuffing his hands behind his back as Smith wails for help.
“Where’s the gun?” an officer is heard asking in the video as Smith continues to cry out.
3. District Attorney Said Shooting of Jerry Smith Was Justified
The Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office ruled that shooting was justified, according to Smith’s attorneys. The decision came after Officer Melvin Finkley, who fired his gun twice, said in a statement that he “perceived Mr. Smith was reaching for a weapon concealed behind the air conditioning unit.”
Officer Adam Stahl, who fired one shot after Finkley opened fire, said that he shot Smith because he “feared for Officer Finkley’s safety and for his own.”
The Independent reports that the shooting does not need an independent investigator because it was not fatal. Both officers are still on the force but are now on administrative duty.
Storm said he hoped federal prosecutors will take a look at the case.
“We’re asking the U.S. Attorney’s office to now look at this video, make an independent decision or recommend to District Attorney Chisholm to submit this to a grand jury,” he told reporters. “His right leg, he has partial use of it. We can only hope that the US attorney would get involved because we may have a violation of civil rights.”
“The people in the community need to see that cops are as accountable as they are,” he added.
4. Jerry Smith Jr. is Confined to a Wheelchair After Being Shot in the Head
Smith said that he has needed a wheelchair since leaving the hospital in September. Smith’s lawyers said he only has “partial use” of his right leg because a bullet is still lodged in his hip.
“Right after the surgery, the only thing he could have was soup and Jell-O, things like that — because they removed part of his intestines,” Smith’s lawyers said in a statement. He just underwent six or seven weeks of antibiotics to his heart because he had three different infections at that time.”
“I still got the bullet inside me. I ain’t never thought that was gonna happen to me,” Smith said. “I didn’t think I’d be in a wheelchair.”
5. ‘I Really Don’t Know Why They Shot Me,’ Jerry Smith Jr. Says
“They said ‘have your hands up, put your hands up,’” Smith said. “I had my hands up, my phone was in my right hand.”
“I really don’t know why they shot me,” he said. “OK I ran, but the officer scared the hell out of me man. He got off the bike grabbing his gun cause I match the description of someone having a gun.”
“I’d like to see some change, real change where we don’t have this shoot first ask questions later,” added his attorney, Walter Stern.