The man shot and killed by a Milwaukee police officer Saturday was charged last year in a shooting and then charged again, with trying to intimidate a witness in that same shooting, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has learned.
The man shot by police was 23-year-old Sylville Smith, police sources and Smith's family told the Journal Sentinel.
Smith was charged with first-degree recklessly endangering safety and with witness intimidation, but the charges were dismissed, court records show.
The charges were dropped even though the prosecutors had recorded jail calls in which Smith asked his girlfriend to pressure the victim to recant, according to court records.
In the witness intimidation case, Smith was accused of pressuring the victim in a shooting to recant a statement identifying him as the suspect, according to the criminal complaint.
Prosecutors with the Milwaukee County district attorney’s office were not immediately available Sunday to explain why the charges were dismissed.
Milwaukee police say Smith was armed when he fled a traffic stop about 3:30 p.m. Saturday near W. Auer Ave. and N. 44th St. The officer ordered Smith to drop his gun and when he did not, the officer fired and wounded the man in the chest and arm, according to preliminary information provided by Mayor Tom Barrett.
Mildred Haynes, Smith’s mother, said police have told her very little so far about the death of her son, who is a father to a 2-year-old boy.
“My son is gone due to the police killing my son,” she said Sunday. “I am lost.”
Haynes said her son does not have a felony record but acknowledged he had been arrested. Online court records show Smith has one prior conviction for carrying a concealed weapon, a misdemeanor.
Smith was charged with first-degree recklessly endangering safety, a felony, on Feb. 3, 2015. Details of the shooting were not immediately clear from the documents.
While that case was pending, Smith was charged with felony witness intimidation after prosecutors said he was intimidating the victim in the first case.
According to the criminal complaint in the intimidation case:
Smith called his girlfriend from jail and instructed her to call the victim and tell him to fill out a sworn affidavit saying Smith did not commit the crime. He called at least two other times and urged her to continue leaning on the victim, saying: “Stay on dude” and “When they get this letter, this (expletive) gone, then my case should be out of here.”
The victim ultimately did file a statement recanting his identification of Smith as the shooter. Prosecutors moved to dismiss the witness intimidation charge in September 2015.
The shooting case moved forward to a jury trial in November 2015, but it ultimately was dismissed when the victim did not show up and was uncooperative, according to online court records.
Smith’s mother, Haynes, said her son had gotten his conceal-carry license because he had been shot twice and robbed four times – and was stripped of all his clothes during one robbery.