Officer Heaggan-Brown and another officer were working in a residential neighborhood in Milwaukee when they approached Mr. Smith, who they suspected was involved in a drug deal.
The officer is going to face a jury trial in August for the sexual assault charges, which follow a disturbing narrative: Heaggan-Brown allegedly had been drinking heavily at a bar the night after Smith's shooting, where he "bragged about being able to do whatever without repercussions" to a man whom he later sexually assaulted.
The defense argued that Heaggan-Brown had been trained to think that Smith could have had a second weapon, and emphasized that the entire encounter took only a few seconds. But the shooting outraged many black residents in the highly-segregated Milwaukee, many of whom who have long complained about police brutality, and touched off 48 hours of uprising in the Sherman Park neighborhood.
Smith's family members reacted angrily to the verdict, swearing and storming from the courtroom. "Shooting someone point blank when he's on the ground is utter disregard for human life", Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm argued.
Former Milwaukee police Officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown appears in Milwaukee County Court on Tuesday.
The officer was sacked two months after the shooting when he was charged in an unrelated sexual assault.
The two engaged in a foot chase after Smith fled from a traffic stop on August 13. Jurors are also being given the option to choose from two lesser charges instead second-degree reckless homicide and homicide by negligent operation of a risky weapon.
The defense also claimed a not-guilty verdict was warranted because Heaggan-Brown showed respect for Smith's life by not firing multiple shots, and instead chose to shoot twice then check Smith's pulse. Heaggan-Brown's acquittal came less than a week after a Minnesota officer, Jeronimo Yanez, was acquitted in the shooting death of a black motorist seconds after the motorist informed him he had a gun. The second one ultimately killed Smith.
"Heaggan-Brown fired once at which time he observed the pistol fly out of Smith's hands and over the fence into the backyard of the residence", a criminal complaint states. A police expert in the use of deadly force says on Monday that Heaggan-Brown, on trial for fatally shooting a black man after a foot chase "acted in accordance with his training".
The 12 person jury, which included four blacks, sided with the defense. Twenty-nine officers, or 34 percent, have been convicted, often for a lesser offense.