2 MKE gun incidents lead to MPD investigation

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Following two recent high-profile shootings that drew media criticism, the Milwaukee Police Department and other law enforcement agencies are reviewing their policies and practices regarding incidents with reported gunmen.

The two incidents occurred over the past couple weeks, one occurring this past week at the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin Nov. 14 and another involving a car jacking Nov. 11 that ended with the shooting and killing of a suspect in downtown Milwaukee.

In the more recent incident, MPD officers entered the hospital to arrest 22-year-old Ashanti Hendricks, who had a warrant out for his arrest.

Hendricks was reportedly at the hospital visiting his girlfriend and their child in the neonatal unit, where newborn babies go if they are sick. When officers arrived on the scene, Hendricks was holding the baby. He initially complied with officers by putting the baby down, but then fled down a hallway. Hendricks was shot in the wrist while he was trying to flee from officers, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke said in a news conference Thursday.

The shooting was reported at 11:59 a.m. Only Hendricks was injured.

MPD chief Ed Flynn said in a press conference last week that officers were called to the scene of the children’s hospital when a woman called police to tell them that a man who had a warrant out and usually carried a gun was in the hospital.

“It was a dispatched call in which the indication was that we had an armed suspect in the (neonatal) unit,” Flynn said. “Obviously this is concerning, the only reason the officers encountered him to see if he was armed was the fact that he had a warrant on him.”

Flynn said officers had to have a lawful reason to go into the hospital to check for the suspect, and the only reason they did was because the suspect had a warrant out for his arrest. According to Flynn and dispatch reports, Milwaukee officers did not show up at the hospital for more than half an hour after the first call and did not request backup or notify the Milwaukee County sheriff’s office or Wauwatosa police.

Flynn also said because the Children’s Hospital is technically in the jurisdiction of Wauwatosa, the call for jurisdiction would usually go to the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Department. The call came in to MPD and Flynn said it was for this reason why the MPD responded to the call.

“The address is 9000 W. Wisconsin, which is in Milwaukee,” Flynn said. “What we’re trying to ascertain is if it was a simple mix up, if someone didn’t know what the address meant, we don’t know. Certainly third district personnel are here constantly, I think it was simply a situation, and I’m speculating, that they got a serious call and they dispatched an available unit.”

MPD’s Critical Incident Review Board is conducting an after-action evaluation of how it handled the situation. MPD Lieutenant Mark Stanmeyer said the review will be reported to the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners, for possible policy changes if necessary. The Children’s Hospital is also reviewing its own policies in the wake of the shooting.

Flynn added that although it could have been possible for plain-clothes officers to go to the hospital to perhaps seem a little calmer, the officers’ main job was to lawfully take care of the situation, and they did so.

According to MPD dispatch reports, some officers were having trouble with the communication system in the hospital. One dispatch report notes, “transmission poor in hosp.”

The woman’s call is coded as neither an emergency nor a tip about a wanted felon’s location. The Milwaukee Police Department does not have a policy for how to handle an armed — but not actively shooting — suspect at a hospital.

The call was initially coded as a priority three, which means it did not require an urgent response. It was later upgraded to a priority one, meaning it involved a life-threatening situation.

This is the second investigation into the MPD’s handing of an active gunmen for incidents that occurred in the last two weeks.

In an earlier incident regarding the car jacking Nov. 11, police said a 56-year-old driver was at E. Michigan Street and N. Lincoln Memorial Drive around 7 a.m. when 17-year-old Shawn Rieves aimed a handgun at the car and tried to open the locked passenger door. The car fled and Rieves fired one shot.

The driver called police and gave officers a description of the suspect. Police officers found Rieves on the second floor of the Downtown Transit Center sitting on a bench holding a handgun. According to police officials, officers tried to negotiate with Rieves, but his behavior became threatening, and three officers fired at him. Rieves was pronounced dead at the scene.

The shooting is currently under review by the Milwaukee Country district attorney’s office and MPD’s metro investigation section of the specialized investigation division.

Milwaukee police reportedly wanted to review surveillance footage from the area, but the video system put in place was not operational at the time of the incident.

Rieves is the fourth person Milwaukee police officers shot and killed so far this year, and the other three all were ruled justifiable self-defense after officers were threatened with weapons.

When asked in the press conference held Nov. 14 about the logic behind MPD investigating itself, Flynn said MPD is not alone in their investigation.

“Our investigators are the varsity of Wisconsin,” Flynn said. “There is no better investigatory agency in sight. But we also recognize our responsibility to behave in an honest and open way. This is why the district attorney’s office participates in every officer-involved shooting investigation. The sheriff’s office and (the Wauwatosa Police Department) will be involved. This is not some secret cabal to hide secrets from the public. The truth will be in witness statements, none of whom work for us.”

Flynn assured citizens that the investigation will be well done by ethical professionals.

Stanmeyer said the review on both incidents is ongoing.