Guest Blog - Paulie Heenan | WisCommunity

Guest Blog - Paulie Heenan

By: Amelia and Nathan Royko Maurer
Ed. Note -- for further background on this story please see the Wiscosnin Watch article at
  We are troubled by a nagging question each time we hear how the tactics used in the Paulie Heenan case are defended as 100% reasonable: what if Paulie Heenan had been severely disabled and not drunk?   Our cousin has severe autism, is 6’4” and has done things that share many similarities with Paulie’s actions on November 9th save the drinking.  Had it been our cousin on the sidewalk that evening, the outcome would have likely been the same. Extrapolating from the facts of the investigation and the conclusions from the analysis of those facts, it would have even been considered acceptable that officer Heimsness ignore Mr. O'Malley's pleas of, “He’s a neighbor!  He’s a neighbor!” even if they had been, "He's my son! He's disabled!".     Here is a recent story in which man with Autism accidentally approached a home that wasn't his and was wounded being shot through the door by the homeowner, an off duty police officer who thought he was being burglarized. What if Paulie had been an adult with autism?  The ridiculously small amount of time Officer Heimsness gave all parties to react appropriately, including himself, can't be considered objectively reasonable behavior for "the best police department in the country"; it's fearful, impulsive and reactive.  The only thing separating Paul's fate that evening and someone like our cousin's, was luck.  Is that reasonable? Paulie#141414;">Is using Officer Heimsness' previously not-considered-credible threshold for fear as a sufficient barometer to end someone's life reasonable?  The Madison Police Department (MPD) and Madison Professional Police Officers Association (MPPOA) are saying yes, but we find their current assessment of the just use of deadly force to be deeply unsettling.   We’ve watched key witness Kevin O'Malley's video reenactment a dozen times.  About his statement District Attorney Ozanne and Chief Wray have both called it credible.  But after watching this reenactment with Kevin O’Malley offering his guidance as to what he was doing and what he was attempting to convey, we have reason to believe when Madison Police Officer Stephen Heimsness shot and killed Paulie Heenan on November 9th 2012, he was, from Paulie’s perspective, no more identifiable than some random man with a gun.  Moreover, that he kept his gun drawn for unfounded reasons andwe have reason to believe he killed the unarmed Heenan while he was beginning to back down and comply with police orders.  These details are what continue to trouble us to this day.   The reenactment begins at 18:28 minutes.  A clip between 23:34 and 25:48 shows Paulie looking at the 2nd Officer Troumbly and then back at Officer Heimsness, putting his hands and arms to his chest, backing away and beginning to "crouch".  Unlike Officer Heimsness, Kevin O'Malley never claimed to suffer from auditory exclusion or tunnel vision that night.  In fact, he was cognizant and attempting to deescalate the crisis until the final moment of Paulie's life.  Unlike Officer Heimsness, Kevin O'Malley has nothing to lose or gain in the outcome of this case.   #386eff;"> #386eff;">  Further clouding our belief that an unbiased assessment of the facts occurred is the reality that those investigating Officer Heimsness are his colleagues, his union "brothers" and "sisters", his friends, his collaborators in cases, possibly his lifesavers, his neighbors residing in the same city and his coworkers from the courthouse hallways.  They are bonded by uniform, badge and friendship.  How can these people be expected to reliably and impartially investigate one another for wrongdoing?  It is unfair to expect them to do so consistently and to the degree necessary in a situation as controversial as this one. If a person shot their neighbor, would they leave the scene without submitting a blood sample and would their friends and coworkers be allowed to investigate or sit on the jury for prosecution?  Obviously, to all of these questions, the answer is no.     #141414;">We're not sure which is more shameless and transparent: the consistent and obvious bias or the clumsy strategy being employed to force a reality onto Mr. O'Malley that doesn't actually exist.   #141414;">If the departmental and criminal investigations for the Heenan case were impartial and the outcomes appropriate, there could be few drawbacks to letting a group of objectively impartial experts take a closer look.    #141414;">For this and all reasons stated above, we are asking Chief Noble Wray and MPPOA President Dan Frei to reopen the Paulie Heenan case at the departmental level, to start a new departmental investigation and review with objectively impartial and expert oversight. We are also asking District Attorney Ozanne for an inquest into the criminal investigation.  #141414;">  We would like Dan Frei and other union and department leaders to stop vilifying us for questioning Officer Heimsness’ actions, the investigation and the people that cleared him of any wrongdoing.  The terms "witch hunt" and "lynch mob" are being recklessly thrown around to intimidate and shame us into silence.   Many of us used to believe we civilians and police were on the same team.  Many of us have friends, family and chosen family on the force.  Some of us miss having a true neighborhood cop.  Some who question the integrity of Officer Heimsness’ actions also know and like him.  We want Mr. Frei and others to stop condemning the community for our reasonable suspicion of blatant bias and for wanting a fair process.      When civilians and recently retired officers questions an action or a process of our police department, it does not eliminate our appreciation for their many successes.  However, just as our previous good deeds wouldn’t get us out of a car search resulting from an officer’s reasonable suspicion, previous good deeds of officers shouldn’t stop us from following up on our reasonable suspicions surrounding their behavior.  Failure makes us better only when our allies and we have the courage to call it what it is.  We ask the MPD and MPPOA to recognize us as allies who are calling this incident and process thus far, a failure.  We won't back down because we care about our loved ones and our community which includes the Madison Police Department.    A 30 year old man, who belonged to us all, was shot and killed by a police officer who according to other officers, had several other options available to him had he holstered his gun.  The collective loss and pain are enough. We are unarmed, vulnerable and hurting. We have no easily accessible structure set in place to voice our concerns.  We have had no time to grieve.  Children walk down the Baldwin Street sidewalk every day and know the details of where and how Paulie was killed.   Paulie’s parents lost their son and brother, will never kiss his cheek, see his smile, exchange an “I love you” or hear his voice again.      Our 6 year old daughter cared deeply for Paulie and chose to write Police Officer Heimsness a letter because we just couldn't provide the answers and insight into why someone would shoot an unarmed, intoxicated man while listening to a person scream words to stop the killing.  It doesn’t make any sense.  Few 911 calls pan out to be exactly accurate so observing the two men pushing, not punching, kicking or wrestling but, unarmed with visible hands and pushing should have informed Officer Heimsness to some degree but, it didn't.  Kevin O’Malley had all of the information and Officer Heimsness didn’t bother with catching up.  He rushed and forced the escalation of a crisis.   “He's a neighbor!” could have been, ‘He's disabled!’  ‘He's diabetic!’  ‘He's drunk!’  ‘He has dementia!’   ‘He's my child!’   ‘He's injured!’  ‘He’s unarmed!’  ‘He can’t see who you are!’ 'he's a cop'  ‘He has autism!’  ‘Don't kill your back up!’.     Two months back, Emily Heenan wrote a letter to District Attorney Ozanne and Chief Wray asking them to ensure her brother Paulie gets a fair investigation.  Since then and shamelessly so,  Mayor Soglin, District Attorney Ozanne and Lieutenant Dan Olivas have all gone out of their way to oppose this one statement Emily made when reading her letter on the news:  "This (what happened to Paulie Nov 9th) could have happened to anyone".  It is uncertain what statistics, if any, they are referencing to support their opposition to Emily's claim.  It is also unclear how many times reality and a 3 second google search has to prove them wrong before they make the necessary changes to prevent such unnecessary tragedy from occurring again, to anyone.     Amelia and Nathan Royko Maurer Madison, WI


February 28, 2013 - 11:19am