Fatal shooting violated Wis. policy

Copyright 2006 Journal Sentinel Inc.

Contact between officer, union head ruled confidential
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 

MILWAUKEE, Wis. — Former Milwaukee Police Officer Jon Bartlett violated department policy when he fired into a car and killed Larry Jerome Jenkins in 2002, the attorney for Jenkins' family contended Thursday.

Bartlett, one of three fired officers tried and acquitted this month in the beating of Frank Jude Jr., is the defendant in a federal civil suit being tried this week.

At issue in the suit is whether Bartlett used excessive force when he shot Jenkins seven times, killing him. Jenkins, who was a passenger in a car stopped for traffic violations, ran away from police and got into another car. Jenkins did not have a gun. Police said he used the vehicle as a weapon, trying to run over Bartlett. Jenkins' family argues that the car, which belonged to a friend, was barely moving, and that Jenkins, 31, was not in control of it.

The owner of the second vehicle, Benita Hughlett, testified earlier that she let Jenkins into the car and jumped out a few seconds later when she saw Bartlett's gun. Jenkins was in the passenger seat, crouching to avoid being shot, she said. A backseat passenger also testified that Jenkins was not in the driver's seat.

A Milwaukee police training bulletin introduced as evidence states, "The use of deadly force against an actor who is contained within a motor vehicle MAY NOT be considered a reasonable use of deadly force."

An actor is someone in the car who is not driving, former Milwaukee Police Chief Arthur Jones testified Thursday. Jones also said: "Certainly an officer should never place himself in front of a vehicle that is moving. That's just common sense."

Several witnesses have testified that Bartlett got in front of the Lincoln as it rolled forward.

Also Thursday, U.S. District Judge David R. Herndon ruled that Jenkins' family could not present testimony regarding their theory that Bartlett was coached by his attorney and the Milwaukee Police Association president about what to say to justify his use of force.

After several hours of argument, Herndon ruled that Bartlett's conversations with attorney Jonathan Cermele and with former union President Bradley DeBraska must remain confidential. In the case of Cermele, the ruling was not a surprise, because conversations between attorneys and their clients must be kept private. Herndon went a step further, however, extending the attorney-client privilege to DeBraska, who is not a lawyer.

On the night Bartlett shot Jenkins, DeBraska conferred with both Bartlett and Cermele regarding Bartlett's best interest, DeBraska testified Thursday outside the presence of the jury. Because of those actions, Herndon ruled that DeBraska was an agent of the attorney and therefore protected.

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