Madison Police Chief Noble Wray reflects on officer-involved shooting

2013-02-17T11:20:00Z Madison Police Chief Noble Wray reflects on officer-involved shootingSANDY CULLEN | Wisconsin State Journal | scullen@madison.com | 608-252-6137 madison.com

Madison Police Chief Noble Wray said he does not expect any changes to the department’s training or use-of-force policy following the fatal shooting of Paul Heenan.

But Wray said last week he will pursue changes to the department’s internal review process, including greater scrutiny of officers who have had multiple complaints alleging excessive use of force, even if they are unsustained.

Wray said he also would explore drug and alcohol testing of officers involved in shootings. And while he is open to exploring independent investigations of officer-involved shootings, Wray said he needs more details before deciding whether that would be better than having the department conduct its own criminal investigations.

Officer Stephen Heimsness was cleared of wrongdoing in the Nov. 9 shooting of Heenan.

The department previously found Heimsness used excessive force when he shot the tires of a fleeing car in a Downtown parking ramp in 2001. But it found a complaint that he used excessive force in subduing a man who was resisting arrest at a State Street bar in 2006 to be not sustained, though the city paid $27,000 to settle a claim in the case.

Wray has declined to say if there have been other unsustained allegations of excessive force against Heimsness. The department is now investigating three other incidents involving Heimsness that occurred before the fatal shooting, which Wray has said did not appear to involve excessive force. The U.S. Department of Justice also is reviewing the Heenan shooting.

Heimsness remains on paid leave pending the outcome of the police department’s internal investigations.

Meanwhile, the department, which has a long history of community-oriented policing — a philosophy that focuses on problem-solving to reduce crime — and is regarded by some as one of the best departments in the country, is continuing to deal with questions surrounding the shooting, which Wray said "cut at the core of policing."

Two former department leaders strongly associated with the department’s community-oriented approach have echoed concerns of Heenan’s neighbors and others and questioned whether the use of deadly force was not just legally, but morally justified.

Heimsness was responding to a possible burglary at a home on South Baldwin Street when he observed the homeowner struggling with Heenan outdoors. Heimsness drew his gun and ordered both men to get down, but Heenan came at him.

According to Heimsness’ account, Heenan was reaching toward his gun as the two struggled. Believing his life was in danger, he fired three shots, killing Heenan after the two briefly separated.

It was later learned that Heenan, who was unarmed and intoxicated, had recently moved two doors down from the home he entered at about 2:45 a.m., and the homeowner was taking Heenan to his own residence when Heenan began struggling with him.

In a recent blog post, former Madison Police Chief David Couper, who championed the department’s shift to a community-oriented policing philosophy in the 1970s and is now an Episcopal priest, called Heimsness’ actions "questionable" and said the department should review its defensive tactics training.

Former Capt. Cheri Maples, who was a finalist along with Wray to lead the department and is now a Buddhist teacher, told the State Journal, "While I am not in a position to question Officer Heimsness’ statement that he feared for his life, I sincerely believe few officers would have made the same choice in the same set of circumstances."

At a recent community talk, Maples described the current legal standard established by the U.S. Supreme Court governing the use of deadly force as the "lowest possible bar," saying, "Just because it might not be criminal to respond using deadly force in this type of incident does not mean this is what we should do."

Wray, who embraced Couper’s philosophies and brought his own emphasis on building community trust, said he nevertheless disagrees "wholeheartedly" with Couper’s and Maples’ assessment of the incident.

Wray said he believes the shooting met not only the legal standard, "I believe it met the moral standard."

"Any time a human being believes that their life is in jeopardy, morally they have the ability to defend themselves and the life of someone else. I think that’s the community standard. I think that’s what the community expects," he said.

"The other part of that moral authority, is that I have a responsibility as chief of police to ensure that if (officers are) in a situation where they believe that their life is in danger, that they feel comfortable with preserving their life and preserving the life of someone else and not second-guessing that."

Wray said he does not believe the department’s policy on use of force needs to be changed. "I think it was applied correctly," he said. "I think the officer did what he believed was objectively reasonable."

Nor is he "seeing anything related to training that would need to be adjusted at this particular time," Wray said, adding, "I think the training is exceptional."

Wray said one of the things that makes the Heenan shooting difficult is that it’s two stories in one. One is that of an officer responding to a burglary in progress and observing a homeowner wrestling with someone he believed to be a burglar.

"He takes his gun out. He’s justified in doing that from policy and training," Wray said, adding that within 15 seconds, a struggle ensues and fatal shots are fired.

"The other is the story of a neighbor, or of someone who is unarmed," Wray said. "All those things start to come out afterward. Depending on where you align with this particular incident, there’s a story that supports it."

The reaction to the shooting has taken a toll on the department, said Wray, who described it as the most difficult crisis he has dealt with in his nearly 30 years on the force. Detectives are investigating death threats against him and Heimsness, Wray said.

The department also "continues to be mindful of the tragedy" Heenan’s family and friends have experienced, Wray said.

Despite her criticisms of the shooting, Maples said she believes Wray is "a good man with a good heart and values I really appreciate" who "has the capacity to lead us back from this tragedy."

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(36) Comments

  1. midwestguy
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    midwestguy - February 18, 2013 1:04 pm
    Clearly, the majority of those who support the police on this thread are either police officers themselves (poss. even Heimsness), or haters of those who do not follow their right wing agenda. To those in that group-you obviously have a right to your opinion, but the community will ultimately render it's verdict on current police policy. As it stands, the majority of the community appears to have major issues with how this incident played out. No hyperbole will change that trend.
  2. Devastation608
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    Devastation608 - February 18, 2013 8:53 am
    FACT: Arresting officers can do whatever they want to you, and get away with it. Even if they used too much force they can say, "oh it's just how I was trained." It's obvious that the world is corrupted, but there's nothing anyone can do about it.
  3. Hokie
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    Hokie - February 18, 2013 6:12 am
    I do not believe deadly force was necessary. I want to hear the account from Heenans friend.
    This is truly a tragedy and should not be taken lightly. I have lost respect for Wray and his department. Why should we believe a police investgation of a policeman. Change that policy, Mayor.
  4. Oscar
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    Oscar - February 18, 2013 4:27 am
    The officer was 2-17 feet too close to use his weapon both safely and effectively. He used no cover, vehicles, trees, curbs, etc. He refused to back up. All this served to limit his options. It almost guaranteed a shooting. The chief's refusal to change any policy guarantees that there will be more shootings. If you are satisfied that an unarmed, incapacitated man was shot in an unfortunate misunderstanding, then so be it. This is an example of aggressive policing. Not passive, assertive or restrained.Am disappointed in them and those that would insult Madisonians for their political beliefs.
  5. madisoncabbie
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    madisoncabbie - February 17, 2013 10:45 pm
    Lesson learned: control your alcohol intake.
  6. madisoncabbie
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    madisoncabbie - February 17, 2013 10:45 pm
    No people on the east side are crying wolf.
  7. vertical2
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    vertical2 - February 17, 2013 10:22 pm
    With our inquiry and demands for a recognizable version of justice, people like us on the near east side are helping people in Wisconsin neighborhoods where this happens more often.
  8. vertical2
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    vertical2 - February 17, 2013 10:20 pm
    See video re-enactment video, where O’Malley who was not impaired with auditory exclusion or tunnel vision, plays Paul.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oWxOC5Iw7WU&feature=youtube

    The reenactment begin at 18:28 minutes.

    Between 23:34 – 25:48 shows Paul looking at 2nd officer and back, putting up hands/arms defensively, backing off and beginning to "crouch".

    A full hour and half of the video tape statement has not yet been released.

    See also interview with O’Malleys
    http://www.thedailypage.com/daily/article.php?article=38695
  9. vertical2
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    vertical2 - February 17, 2013 10:18 pm
    Kevin O'Malley was. See video re-enactment video, where O’Malley who was not impaired with auditory exclusion or tunnel vision, plays Paul. O'Malley has nothing to gain or lose here. It appears he was trying to deescalate the crisis from start to finish, unlike PO Heimsness.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oWxOC5Iw7WU&feature=youtube

    The reenactment begin at 18:28 minutes.

    Between 23:34 – 25:48 shows Paul looking at 2nd officer and back, putting up hands/arms defensively, backing off and beginning to "crouch".

    A full hour and half of the video tape statement has not yet been released.

    See also interview with O’Malleys
    http://www.thedailypage.com/daily/article.php?article=38695

    Read more: http://host.madison.com/news/opinion/column/cheri-maples-training-must-be-balanced-to-reflect-cop-s/article_0ee3afc2-7542-11e2-9695-0019bb2963f4.html#ixzz2LDlMKZNg
  10. vertical2
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    vertical2 - February 17, 2013 10:12 pm
    M You somehow missed these important parts including the blatant double standards and biases.

    1.) I see my back up arriving and flash my light at them. They are arriving in the direction opposite of me and therefor, assist in stopping the suspect if they flee.

    2.) I sneak up behind the husband and suspect unannounced. Am I identifiable? Will they know me from someone concealing and carrying?

    3.) At some point I am temporarily physically impaired. I cannot hear, nor can I find my back up because I am having vision problems too.

    4.) After making contact with me, the man backs away from me, puts his hands on his torso and starts to lower himself as I asked. He is not coming back BUT I DECIDE TO SHOOT AND KILL HIM ANYWAY, with a big gun at close range. Where did the bullets go? Where is my back up?

    5.) I get to leave without giving a blood sample but they take blood from the unarmed man I killed. I get to leave and sleep for two nights before giving a statement that will be used in the investigation while the husband is pressured to make a statement immediately. My "brothers" and "sisters" on the force do not search through my stuff or investigate possible psychological issues, pharmaceutical use or past behavioral problems but they investigate all of these things involving the dead man.

    And please explain what your version of the psych eval consists of? I've asked Chief Wray directly and he gave me his answer and it is far from professional or sufficient. What is your take?
  11. scorp
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    scorp - February 17, 2013 10:00 pm
    The biggest loss that night was the "innocence " of the Madison leftist community who finally had to realize that when you attack and wrestle with an officer holding a gun,you may be shot. Stupidity and drunkedness has consequences, often deadly by car accident ,but also by police action. The one who deserves the most compassion is the police officer who has been vilified by the crazy left and the media ,and who must live with the traumatic occurrance.
  12. wadwizard
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    wadwizard - February 17, 2013 2:18 pm
    I assume that the officer's psychological profile will be evidence in a civil trial?
  13. willhogoboom
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    willhogoboom - February 17, 2013 2:10 pm
    Unfortunately a man is dead and the police will not comfort the public that this will be handled differently next time. I bet it will handled differently after it happens again, which it will because the police are not changing their training or use-of-force policy.
  14. BDWIRunner
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    BDWIRunner - February 17, 2013 12:43 pm
    Imagine you are a police officer. You get a call to respond to burgalry in progress with people in the house - including children. Number of suspects is unknown. About 2 blocks from the s ene you kill your lights so you don't cause the criminals to panic and try to take hostages.

    You arrive first on the scene and find two people struggling on the front yard. Which one is the homeowner? Who is the criminal? How many bad guys are there? Is there an accomplice atill in the house or in the bushes? Is anyone armed? Are the kids in the house OK?

    With all these unanswered questions you draw your weapon. You focus on the fight hoping that one of those two is the only criminal. You order the fighters to the ground and approach to further assess the situation. One of the suspects complies, but the little guy is acting strangely. Is he hurt? Is he drunk? Is he hopped up on something? The little guy makes a move for you and starts a struggle. "Don't let him get your gun" goes through your mind. You know if a police officer loses their gun they are almost always shot with their own gun. Someone is shouting something but your focus is on keeping the attacker's hands off your gun. Where is my backup? Is there another person who is going to jump in to help this little guy? You notice the guy smells of alchohol. What else has he been taking?

    Finally you break free. You again order the little guy to the ground. The guy from the fight is yelling something. You are focused on the little guy while the questions flash through your mind. Aee there others? Why the f@&k did this guy come after you? What is he on? The little guy makes another move towards you. Your training kicks in. "Stop the threat! Protect yourself and your weapon!" You fire three shots, center mass. The attacker falls.

    The other guy in the fight is still shouting. The words register "He's a neighbor." What? Was this little guy robbing his neighbor? Oh no - did I shoot the homeowner by mistake? Why wouldn't the little guy just get on the ground? You notice back up has arrived. She helps you secure the scene and call for an ambulance.

    As more police arrive they start taking statements. Slowly the pieces start coming together. The little guy was a neighbor who just moved into the neighborhood. Apparently he came home intoxicated and entered the wrong house. The other guy in the fight was the homeowner. His wife had called 911 when he went to check out the possible burglary. He was trying to take his neighbor home when you arrived. Nobody knows why the little guy attacked you. They will do a tox screen during the autopsy to find out how much alchohol and possibly drugs were in his system.

    In a couple of days all the facts will fall into place. You had to decide what to do in seconds.

    I pieced this scenario together from the published reports I have read. I simply tried to replay the events of the night from any police officer's perspective.

    Paulie is still dead. Nothing is going to change that. It has an impact on many lives. For me, the question is whether or not the officer's response was appropriate. For those who have seen previous posts of mine you know that I lean left (fairly far left on some issues). I sympathize with Paulie's friends and family. I feel for the neighbors whose neighborhood has been changed by the incident. But I cannot throw Heimsness under the bus for his actions that night. There should be a thorough psych evaluation before he is allowed to return to active duty, much less a regular patrol. But department policy requires that already.

    It is a good rhing that the community wants to take alook at the events and learn from them. But in order to learn you have to open to ideas that you may not like. (And that goes for me too).
  15. madisoncabbie
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    madisoncabbie - February 17, 2013 12:39 pm
    Also what about his friend who drove him home? His responsibility was to get Heenan to the right house safely; he failed.
  16. madisoncabbie
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    madisoncabbie - February 17, 2013 12:37 pm
    Its also funny when the homeowner agrees with the police report but most of you can't, and you weren't even there.
  17. madisoncabbie
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    madisoncabbie - February 17, 2013 12:37 pm
    Its also funny when the homeowner agrees with the police report but most of you can't, and you weren't even there.
  18. madisoncabbie
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    madisoncabbie - February 17, 2013 12:22 pm
    You know if Heenan had survived to tell his story, he wouldn't have been able to. He was too drunk the night before to tell it. Talk about personal responsibility.
  19. winklerfamily
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    winklerfamily - February 17, 2013 11:30 am
    Heimsness and Wray are flatly wrong. Heimsness says he saw Heenan and the neighbor wrestling. We know for certain that is not true -- they were not wrestling. The neighbor was helping a drunk Heenan walk to the correct house. Why didn't Heimsness see and interpret what was happening correctly? That's his job and he needed to have done it correctly before he decided jump to the conclusion to think about using deadly force, much less using deadly force. Only an incompetent cop fail to first assess the situation. And, if anyone comes into a situation where two people are wrestling or look like they are wrestling, why would you pull a gun out? Who would you shoot? Who is the "bad" guy in the situation? Even if you would know, could you really use the gun in that situation without endangering the "good" guy? Of course not. And further, one does not have the right to use deadly force in the defense of others unless the others are in danger of great bodily harm or death. Even if it truly was wrestling, the likelihood of great bodily harm in this situation is close to zero: a cut lip, broken nose, bruising. That's about all. Absolutely no need to pull a weapon.

    Seems like Wray and Heimsness got the training they use on the beat watching Dirty Harry movies; the official police training was just create a paper trail for certification -- a diploma mill.
  20. Norwood44
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    Norwood44 - February 17, 2013 11:11 am
    Madison public unions are protected from accountability on every front. The three lethal shots against an unarmed victim were not the fault of the officer. The racial achievement gap has nothing to do with teachers. When will city leaders stand up and own these egregious failures? Instead, they disemble. What a sad state of affairs. If Madison were a movie it would be called "The Unaccountables".
  21. modotti
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    modotti - February 17, 2013 9:12 am
    touche
  22. Thad
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    Thad - February 17, 2013 9:05 am
    Imagine for a moment that Officer Heimsness were on trial, not for the first shot, but for shooting Mr. Heenan the second and third times. By your logic, all jurors should be police officers because all other jurors would inherently be political rats, cowards, and Monday morning quarterbacks. Sorry, but the criminal justice relies on the judgment and wisdom of the ordinary citizens who are serve as jurors. That's why it works so well.
  23. davea
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    davea - February 17, 2013 8:21 am
    How about if he was only shot once, and survived to tell his side?
  24. nan3
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    nan3 - February 17, 2013 8:20 am
    It's amazing that righties who were not there, were not involved with the investigation at all, think they know better than anyone else, including the eyewitness, the home owner, who tells a very different version than Heimsness.
  25. davea
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    davea - February 17, 2013 8:15 am
    Very poor decision making that night? How many shots does it take? Unfortunately there is one person who cannot, in ayway, express his opinion on the decisions that were made.
  26. skippie
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    skippie - February 17, 2013 7:40 am
    It amazing all the lefties that were not there, have no experience, and have not been involved at all in the investigation think they know better than everyone else.
  27. Johnny V
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    Johnny V - February 17, 2013 7:19 am
    This is why I would never apply to become a police officer in Madison. The chief seems to be doing the right thing while the armchair cop,s who don't have the guts to become officers, back the bad guy. Then there is this former chief, David Couper. Sounds more like a politician than someone who was a police officer. I am sure than he never worked as a rank-and-file officer in a medium to large city. A total sellout. I wonder what these kind of cops would do if Christopher Dorner barricaded himself in a home there. My guess is they would be trying to meet his demands by reading his manifesto on television in order to talk him in to surrendering.
  28. hcliff1
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    hcliff1 - February 17, 2013 2:33 am
    political rats all of you! and shame on you for judging this officer. Anyone that is not in his boots and recieved his training are cowards and monday morning quarterbacks.
    The officer responded the way he was trained against a threat. He did not have time to judge whether he was drunk, a nice guy, or a musician. He reacted to a suspect charging him while he had a gun out. The only intention of that charge was to disarm or engage in a fight. Shame on Couper, Maples, and Chief Wray for not recognizing this. We are not in the 70's or buddist monks, they are cops trained to react to a threat. Throw the political bull
    out the window!
  29. Thad
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    Thad - February 16, 2013 9:23 pm
    A fist or a nightstick would have been more than sufficient for Officer Heimsness to have defended himself against what he says was an attack by Paul Heenan. Or, after pushing Mr. Heenan away, he could have finally stated that he is a police officer and threatened to shoot Mr. Heenan if he came close again. Tragically, Officer Heimsness chose to protect himself by firing three bullets into Mr. Heenan’s chest. The fact that we have a Police Chief who doesn't recognize the gross immorality of executing a citizen when non-lethal action would easily have been sufficient to control the situation, and who can’t see the flagrantly obvious need for changes in policies and procedures so that Madison Police officers use the minimum force necessary to protect themselves and the public rather than the maximum force allegedly allowed by law, demonstrates clearly that Noble Wray has no business serving as Chief of Police in Madison or anywhere else. If he can’t bring himself to resign he should be fired.
  30. rjd_in_gb
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    rjd_in_gb - February 16, 2013 8:50 pm
    Wray's comments are outstanding, and Couper's are unfortunate. People ought to re-read Wray's analysis, and stongly consider what he said about this being a tragic case of two different perceptions of what was going on in the instant it happened; not the aftermath of endless opinions based on commentators personal bias after the fact.

    While there is focus on a different method to objectively investigate such a use of deadly force resultant in a death; perhaps there ought to be a focus on after care and placement of the involved officer as well. It is hard to imagine with all the very harsh and not fully informed hate on this officer, that he wouldn't be psychologically damaged, and need plenty of healing time. I doubt this officer is and/or has been a psychologically unsuitable personality to have been a police officer. The previous matter of shooting out a tire was a hyped up error in judgement that was technically against policy, not a proof that he had a malevolent anti-social behavior pattern and assault history against a person that would suggest he wasn't a capable police officer. There ought to be a better system to re-assign the officer, in a position where he can continue his employment with full employment rights that he earned over ~20 years of service. It is not practical to assign this officer to street calls-for-service duty in such an emotionally charged atmosphere. That may be more a reflection on the loud and emotional small group who have advanced this controversy, and doesn't ignore the drum beat of attorney's circling the blood in the water nature of this publicity venue.
  31. midwestguy
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    midwestguy - February 16, 2013 7:26 pm
    A civil suit seems imminent, but an out court settlement for the family would only be symbolic, and will not restore the community's trust in the MAPD until their admission of accountability in this matter is delivered.
  32. MrsJones
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    MrsJones - February 16, 2013 7:09 pm
    This is a tragedy for everyone involved. I can't help but wonder if the community reaction had been different if the young man shot had been black; or if a similar situation had occurred in a different part of town. People on the near east side (I live there too) tend to think that incomprehensible things don't happen to people like us in our nice neighborhoods.
  33. nan3
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    nan3 - February 16, 2013 7:02 pm
    Wray needs to admit his mistake(s) in keeping this bad cop on the force, get rid of him, and change ANY policy that would allow this 3 (or more) time loser to continue to collect off the taxpayers as he is currently doing. I used to admire Wray and trust the police but, sadly, I just don't anymore. There is something being covered up here-what gives, Chief?
  34. LeftCoastConservative
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    LeftCoastConservative - February 16, 2013 6:59 pm
    Why is it no matter what the police do, people say it was the wrong thing?? How about this.. A drunk and disorderly guy made the wrong decisions one night and paid the price. Oh, I forgot. He was a 'Madison musician' that got drunk. And nobody wants to talk about his very poor decision making that night. And it's always the cops that are in the spotlight. Seriously!
  35. persia
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    persia - February 16, 2013 5:50 pm
    They're going to whitewash it, they'll have him back on the beat and try to ride out community anger in the hopes people will eventually tire out. Ray was good but he's turned cold.
  36. burbles
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    burbles - February 16, 2013 5:39 pm
    I don't agree at all. Just a terrible situation and poor judgement on the Cops part. I don't care what is told by the Chief. I wonder if it was a different situation with his loved one if he would still say the same thing. I rather doubt it.
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