On the afternoon of April 30th, 2014, Dontre Hamilton was shot and killed by police officer Christopher Manney. Hamilton was unarmed. In the last few years we’ve heard countless names of unarmed men and women being killed in cold blood by the police, whether the officer says they felt the victim to be an immediate threat, or the victim was running away, the reactions from the community and subsequently, the nation, are at an all-time high as the layers unravel. The Blood is at the Doorstep does a good job of showcasing both “sides”.
The documentary takes us to the time before the protests, hearings, and cameras. We are brought back to the spring day in Milwaukee as two officers responded to a call that Hamilton was asleep in the park . They checked on him twice and found he was doing nothing wrong. When Manney arrived, he was not aware that other officers had already been there.
“As Manney began to pat down Hamilton, Hamilton fought him, and a confrontation began. Manney tried to use his baton to subdue Hamilton, but Hamilton got control of it and swung at Manney, hitting him on the side of the neck, according to Milwaukee police internal affairs.”
This documentary primarily does exclusive interviews with the Hamilton family as it does with the Police Chief Edward A. Flynn. It does a good job of presenting the facts because, sadly, this is not a case many of us are very familiar with. We first get to know the Hamilton family as they mention that officers first told them of Dontre’s death about 12 hours after it happened, ““we thought you would have seen his death on the news” they were told.
“I don’t want to demonize this man”- Flynn says at the first press conference before mentioning that Hamilton was schizophrenic and had a history of criminal behavior. The Hamilton family mentions that think it is to discredit Dontre and make people think he was “crazy”. Meanwhile, Flynn mentions that there is a direct correlation between this case and the Ferguson riots- “It was a mental health issue in April. Once Ferguson broke, suddenly it was a racial issue. There were a lot of ball faced opportunist who latched on to this family.”
For much of the film, we see Dontre’s mother as she organizes a tea called
Mothers for Justice Tea Party for the mothers of other victims of police brutality.
An added dimension this film offers is the murder of Michael Bell Jr. His father (Michael Bell Senior), a veteran, said his case was ruled before crime lab was complete or witness statements were taken, they deemed it justified.
“I always thought I was really a brother with law enforcement . For 23 years I go out and believe in a democratic principal, just to come home and have an officer kill my child. Then think I’m going to get fair and due process, just to have the door shut in my face.”
His father contacted the governor and attorney general, and neither got back to him. He used the settlement money to buy full page ads in newspapers and billboards so he could be heard. “When police kill, should they judge themselves?”
Bell backed a bill that would require any officer involved in a death to be reviewed by independent authorities. “Michael Bell Law” demanded that police departments are required to bring in two outside investigators to independently collect evidence and interview witnesses.
• This law passed and the Hamilton case happened a week later.
Instead, the two “outside” investigators were former officers who worked for Milwaukee Police Department for 25 and 35 years, respectively. They each were receiving $5,000 in pensions monthly as well.
• The chief stated that they’re the only big town in Wisconsin. No other officers in different (smaller) cities would know what to do.
• Officer Christopher Manney (the killer) had 17 other allegations where he used excessive force or violent language and sexual assault. Even beat up a clown. He stated that he is not racist because his children are biracial and his nanny is Mexican and Puerto Rican “The attack was so quick and so violent. I kept pushing him off and he just kept attacking”- Manney
• There were no visible injuries on Manney’s body.
• Manney was only fired for violating their pat down search procedure, the shooting was justified.
• Police Union fights firing of Officer Manney
The Hamilton family was quite a force in fighting for the rights of their son. They along with prominent members from Black Lives Matter and organizations like them, organized protests and marches. A fantastic point brought up by the brother of Dontre was about the actual issue of how police officers deal with people with mental issues (or anyone, for that matter).
“They think we’re out for police officer’s lives. No we’re not, we just want the police to be better. 60% of people who are arrested have mental health issues but our police officers don’t know how to deal with people with mental health issues”
Flynn’s opinion on the matter of more training? “It’s stunning to me that there’s not a social problem in America that apparently can’t be solved by more training for the police”- Chief Flynn
There was quite the divide amongst the march after they try to push their way in to a government building. Think Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. vs. Malcolm X ideologies or Professor X v.s. Magneto.
“Damage is not going to get us justice but we can’t control people forever”- Dontre’s mother passionately stated. One of the more heart breaking moments was watching Dontre’s mother watch the Michael Brown case, no indictment for Officer Wilson who shot Brown.
One of the more emotionally charged moments took place in the Bayview Neighborhood, home of District Attorney. The activists sang Silent Night outside of his home. They they laid down (all of them, black men) all over the sidewalk and street. They began to state the “The Blood is at the Doorstep”.
Overall there are wins and losses for both sides of which you will have to watch to find out. I don’t have the answers but I do know a 31 year old man lost his life on that spring time afternoon and someone should be held accountable for his death and lives that are taken in a similar fashion.