This happens from time-to-time in Madison. Typically it is a "mentally ill" person who gets shot, and the police story is pretty stock: the suspect reached for the officer's gun, and feeling his life was in danger, the officer engaged his weapon. Or some such.
It was different this time, because Paulie Heenan was a much loved local rock musician and sound engineer, and his family and friends are not happy with the official version of what happened. Heenan had no criminal record, and no history of violence or threatening behavior.
Further complicating the matter, the man whose house was entered disputes the official police story, but was ignored. Indeed, in today's Wisconsin State Journal the City Attorney of Madison claims that an "independent" investigation has already been conducted, and it supports the previous finding that the officer, Stephen Heimsness, was not at fault.
Even the Attorney General of the State of Wisconsin has gotten involved, and - surprise of surprises - cleared Heimsness of any wrongdoing.
Who knows for sure what happened? One thing I can say from personal experience is that a bureaucracy NEVER finds against itself. NEVER. The fact that other bureaucracies support the bureaucracy of the Madison Police Department just means that similar bureaucracies unite when faced with a common adversary. In this case the common adversary is the general public.
Bureaucracies, as I have written before, are about themselves. Individuals within bureaucracies exist on favorable terms as long as they are loyal to the bureaucracy. They rise through the ranks to the degree that they conform to bureaucratic norms and dictates. Members of police forces can kill with impunity if they are getting along in the department, subservient to bureaucratic power structures, and do not dissent or reveal department practices to outsiders.
I wrote previously about recent encounters I had with police, in which all went well as long as I was behaving within police guidelines. Deviate in the slightest from their rules and the situation will rapidly deteriorate. The problem for most people is that the internal rules by which police operate are known only to them.
The number one thing citizens should be aware of about modern policing is that officers' own concerns about themselves and their safety have top priority. If a citizen fails to understand this, and deviates from police internal rules to the degree where the officer pull his or her gun out and shoots, it is to kill. Gone are the days where subduing a suspect, or in Paulie Heenan's case, just an inebriated neighbor, is an option. Police do have tasers, but Stephen Heimsness for some reason entered the house alone and killed Paul Heenan before any backup could arrive to back him up.
So Paulie Heenan is dead, killed for the crime of thinking he was home when he wasn't. If you find yourself in a similar predicament, good luck. To avoid getting yourself killed, I recommend two steps. First, get a second opinion. Make doubly sure that you are indeed home. The second thing is when a police officer arrives, do whatever he says. I do mean "he" here. It is unlikely that a female officer would enter a house alone on an emergency call. It isn't that she would be afraid, though she might be. A female police officer would be more likely to follow police procedures. For some reason, Stephen Heimsness didn't. But in the system of police bureaucracy it didn't matter. The bureaucracy protects its own.
Paul Heenan's father was interviewed on a local television program today.
Madison's WKOW covered last Saturday's rally at the City-County Building.
Here's some more TV, this time about the "independent" investigation. Madison's NBC affiliate has some update information here, including some video.
This link is to a site with letters you can send demanding an independent investigation.
The Madison Police Department has gone to great lengths to exonerate Stephen Heimsness. They even made a video reenactment. It occurs at 0:17:47.
This song is for the family and friends of Paulie Heenan. Hang in there.
Here's a song for Stephen Heimsness. Here's another. He has a history. Here's some of his handiwork. His prior suspension is described here. A pattern is beginning to emerge.
For some background on Paul Heenan's music career, click here.
I first saw the term bureaucratic truth in a book by John Kenneth Galbraith titled "Who Needs the Democrats" many years ago. I don't have the book anymore, but remember bureaucratic truth. I encounter it frequently. You probably do too.
A similar police shooting happened in Kenosha on the same day of the year, December 9, except in 2004. The shooting victim's father has been placing ads on Madison TV stations, using the money he won in a lawsuit over his son's death. He compares the two killings, and calls for an independent investigation. Here's his website.