Derek Williams inquest jury recommend that officers be charged

By Cassandra Lans

Members of Derek Williams’ family and friends are pictured above. Most attended court for the past 7 days, and were present when the jury’s recommendation was read. Pictured third from the left is Williams’ mother, Sonya Moore. This photo was taken at a King Holiday Celebration in January 2013. (Photo by Robert A. Bell)

Finally, the family and friends of Derek Williams were able to breathe a sigh of relief, as the jury’s decision was read in court around 1:15 pm Thursday afternoon. The jury was asked if they thought Williams’ death was related to a Sickle Cell crisis, and they answered “yes”. The next question was, if the jury thought that the three officers involved with taking Williams into custody were negligent in addressing Williams crisis, and the jury answered “yes” again.

The nightmare for the Williams family and friends began in July 2011, when Williams 22, a robbery suspect, was arrested after running about 1½ blocks from police near the 2700 block of N. Buffum St. He had been released from jail earlier in the day, where he had been held for unpaid tickets. He had no criminal record. A video shows that for nearly eight minutes, he struggled to breathe and begged for help from the back of a squad car while officers ignored his pleas. Williams died in the back of the squad car.

Now, the three officers, Richard Ticcioni, Jeffrey Cline and Jason Bleichwehl, may face misdemeanor charges, if the recommendation from the inquest is pursued.

In more than 25 years, no Milwaukee County inquest jury has recommended criminal charges against a police officer involved in a fatal shooting or in-custody death.