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Paul Heenan's neighbor hires lawyer

Published On: Nov 19 2012 05:55:33 PM CST
Updated On: Nov 19 2012 08:58:36 PM CST

A neighbor who witnessed a Madison police officer shoot and kill a man has hired a lawyer.

Madison attorney Hal Harlowe, a former Dane County district attorney, confirmed that he is representing Kevin O'Malley and his family.

This comes shortly after Paul Heenan's parents hired Jeff Scott Olson, possibly to pursue a civil suit. Heenan was fatally shot after police said he was aggressively confronting a police officer and reaching for the officer's drawn gun.

The incident began when Heenan wandered into the O'Malley's home on the morning of Nov. 9.

Police said O'Malley's wife called 911, thinking a burglar had broken into her home. Her husband went downstairs to check on the situation and found Heenan.

Kevin O'Malley was walking Heenan home when Heenan was shot and killed by Officer Stephen Heimesness.

Harlowe said his "narrow" role is to protect the privacy of O'Malley, his wife and their four children throughout the investigation. He added that keeping lines of communication open between the family and police is also important to make sure they have all of the information they need for the investigation.

"I guess I'm not shocked somebody could get a lawyer," attorney Tim Verhoff said.

Verhoff with Chirafisi & Verhoff law firm in Madison has prosecuted a number of officer-involved cases in the past. He said it's uncommon for a witness to bring on legal counsel but not unheard of.

"People get a lawyer because they're not familiar with the process, and they're affected by the situation, and they want to know, 'What do I have a right to say? When do I have a right to say it? Can you help me walk through this?'" Verhoff said.

Michael Scott, a law professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has co-authored a book on deadly force and served on the Madison police force for a few years before research and teaching.

Scott said that having well-trained police officers can't always prevent tragic outcomes.

Scott says with legal standards in criminal cases, it is rare to see an officer charged by the district attorney. Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne said he is continuing to review reports and information and doesn't know when a decision will be reached.

The Dane County medical examiner said the toxicology report will take at least a couple of months to come back, which is standard procedure. Scott said those results won't likely be relevant for criminal charges but could be useful from a civil suit standpoint and could shed some light on motive behind Heenan's actions that night.

"It's less so for the legal case as much as it is for the public understanding of what happened and the community, either acceptance of the tragedy and understanding of the tragedy," Scott said.

There has been no indication from Olson as to when a law suit might be filed on behalf of Heenan's parents.

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