An award-winning Wisconsin police officer was charged with aggravated battery last week for shooting an unarmed man in the back as he lay facedown on the ground.
Brown Deer police officer Devon Kraemer claimed she shot the man “because she feared for her safety and that of her partner,” according to the complaint filed Friday, which was obtained by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
But prosecutors did not buy that story.
The incident took place on March 14, 2016. Kraemer received a “Meritorious Service Award” just a week later for an unrelated incident.
We may never know but on the day of the incident, Kraemer and another officer were responding to a call about a man on a city bus arguing with its driver.
Manuel L. Burnley, 26, was not threatening anybody on the bus nor did he claim to have a weapon. He was just “using vulgar language and displaying a belligerent attitude.”
Kraemer and her partner, Michael Leeman, removed the man from the bus and took him to the ground, falling down along with him, continuing to struggle with him.
There is video of the incident that helped prosecutors in their decision, but that does not appear to have been released.
According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
“Kraemer stated that she was unable to gain control of Burnley’s left arm, and she drew her firearm, and pressed it against Burnley’s back,” the complaint says. “She then drew it back a short distance, to avoid a malfunction, and fired once, striking Burnley in the back, then immediately re-holstered her firearm.”
After he was shot, Burnley asked what happened and heard Leeman respond by saying, “We just shot you” and using a racial slur, according to a document Burnley’s attorney filed as a precursor to a lawsuit. Burnley is African-American; the two officers are white.
Burnley was hospitalized for 12 days and lost part of a lung as a result of the shooting. The bullet remains in his body and he is unable to work, according to his attorney, Jonathan Safran.
“Mr. Burnley is lucky to be alive and not paralyzed from being shot,” Safran said Friday.
Burnley was charged with assault on both officers, but those charges were dropped in July, which was when Burnley filed a notice of claim against the city, which is a precursor to a lawsuit.
Below is the document that announced Kraemer received an award a week after the shooting.