A roommate of Paul Heenan, the Madison musician killed early Friday morning on the Near East Side, said her longtime friend was an unarmed, nonviolent man who got disoriented and made a mistake.
Madison Police officer Stephen Heimsness, responding to a 911 call about a possible burglary, was identified Sunday as the officer who shot Heenan.
“For whatever reason, Paulie entered the wrong home. He thought he was entering his own house,” said Amelia Royko Maurer, who with her family moved from Evansville to a house at 509 S. Baldwin St., late last month.
Heenan, 30, had been living in New York and recently moved back to Madison before a planned move to the West Coast, said Maurer, a local musician who was getting back into music while home-schooling her 6-year-old daughter.
Heenan moved in with them on Nov. 1, but before that had been spending time at their home in Evansville, where they worked on some music projects together, Maurer said.
Maurer said she herself has mistaken the nearby house for her own since she’s still new to the neighborhood. Both are blue houses with white pillars.
“I walked up on that porch twice in broad daylight, thinking it was my house, so there are similarities. There are even similarities when you walk in the door,” she said.
According to the 911 center, the house where the burglary was reported was 513 S. Baldwin St.
Police gave no more information about the shooting Sunday, except to identify the officer responsible as Heimsness and to identify Officer Stacy Troumbly as being on the scene providing life-saving measures. But in an initial release, police said officers responded to a report of a burglary in progress in the 500 block of South Baldwin Street just before 3 a.m. Friday.
A woman called 911 and said she was awakened by the sound of her door opening and could hear someone in her house, according to police spokesman Joel DeSpain. She said her four children were home at the time, and her husband went to investigate.
The first officer arrived and found the woman’s husband and the reported intruder, Heenan, struggling outside the residence. DeSpain said Heenan then got into a physical confrontation with the officer, who repeatedly ordered him to get down on the ground before shots were fired.
What happened after Heenan walked into the wrong house is a story that “belongs not really to the police, it belongs to the man who lived there and saw Paulie — a man who has nothing but good things to say about Paulie,” Maurer said.
Heenan died at the scene. Police have not said whether Heenan was armed. Maurer said he was not.
Heenan had been at a couple of bars recruiting bands and was dropped off just after bartime, she said. Based on her friend’s level of confusion, Maurer said she assumes he was intoxicated.
“He was obviously very confused,” she said. “So are people with dementia, so are people who have psychotic episodes. These people do things that confuse us, and scare us, and resist help. How do the police respond to that?”
Police union president Dan Frei said he couldn’t give out details of the case that hadn’t already been released by the department.
In general, he said, when officers respond to a burglary in progress, training and experience tell them that people engaged in burglaries are frequently armed, so those cases are treated as high-risk situations.
It’s appropriate that police would challenge the individual or suspect with a gun, Frei said.
No one will ever know exactly what Heenan was doing in the other house, Frei said. “That’s not to cast aspersions against him or discount or contradict anything his roommates or the people who know him are saying.”
The facts, as they were collected from witnesses and officers, state that Heenan ended up struggling with the homeowner, Frei said.
It’s possible Heenan was under the influence of something, which can change a person’s nature, he said. “You could deal with the most gentle person, but when they’re under the influence of something, they can act differently.”
The wife had described what the homeowner was wearing, so police were able to differentiate who was who immediately when they arrived at the scene, Frei said.
“If hindsight tells us something, or gives us a possible different explanation, that doesn’t change what anybody knew or believed at the time,” he said.
Heenan’s sister, Emily, said the family would comment when “we get our minds a little clearer.” Contacted Sunday, she said, “my family is unable to make a statement at this time. We are in a grieving state.”