MADISON, Wis. - The U.S. Department of Justice will review a fatal shooting in which a Madison police officer killed Paul Heenan to determine if Heenan's civil rights were violated by a use of unreasonable force, according to the U.S. Attorney's office.
U.S. Attorney John Vaudreuil said he asked for the review after receiving up to 100 letters requesting an independent review of the Madison Police Department's internal investigation of the shooting.
The review by the Civil Rights Division in Washington, D.C., will be limited to the question of whether there was a violation of federal law. Vaudreuil said the review will specifically look at whether Heenan's constitutional rights were violated by the use of unreasonable force.
Michael Bell, an advocate for the Heenan family, told WISC-TV that he spoke with Heenan's parents Thursday afternoon and they didn't know about the U.S. attorney's decision then.
"I'm quite surprised. Hopefully it's a good sign. The U.S. attorney doesn't usually step in like this," Bell said.
Madison police officer Steve Heimsness was cleared of any wrongdoing after he shot and killed Heenan, who was unarmed, on Madison's near east side on Nov. 9 while responding to what he thought was a burglary in progress.
It was later determined that Heenan, who was drunk, had entered a neighbor's house by mistake, prompting a 911 call of a reported break-in.
The Dane County district attorney reviewed the case and cleared Heimsness of any criminal liability. The Madison Police Department conducted an internal investigation and concluded that Heimsness acted in compliance with department protocol.
Neighbors, family and friends Heenan who attended a community meeting Tuesday night said they want an independent review of the police investigation.
Many community members still have numerous questions about the case, and have questioned Heimsness' use of deadly force in the incident.
Amelia Royko Maurer, Heenan's roommate, shared her reaction to the development with WISC-TV by email Thursday night.
"(Vaudreuil) was at the (community) meeting (Tuesday), and we've been writing to him for a month now. Lots of good things (are) happening," she said by email. "People do care about this, and I think they're tired of officers getting away with breaking the rules they enforce on citizens."
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