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Heenan’s friends want Chief Wray out

Published On: Jun 23 2013 12:13:59 AM CDT
Updated On: Jun 23 2013 12:18:20 AM CDT
Officer Steven Heimsness and Paul Heenan

Officer Steven Heimsness and Paul Heenan

MADISON, Wis. -

Fifty-eight pages may not seem like a heavy reading assignment.

But it can be tough to get through if it involves the real-life shooting death of a good friend.

Nate and Amelia Royko-Maurer were Paul Heenan’s roommates before he was shot and killed by Madison officer Stephen Heimsness near their east side home last November.

"They're basically telling us if Heimsness makes a mistake on a computer and offends people there and is violent on a computer, that's unacceptable," Amelia said. "But it's okay for him to be, he can be trusted with firearms."

The department cleared Heimsness of any wrongdoing in the officer-involved shooting, saying his actions followed police protocol.

But according to a letter released Friday, Madison Police Chief Noble Wray filed a complaint to the city’s Police and Fire Commission (PFC) asking for Heimsness to be fired.

Wray stressed in that statement that the complaint before the PFC involves matters separate from the officer-involved shooting of Heenan.

A copy of the 58-page complaint obtained by the Wisconsin State Journal details 114 counts against Heimsness.

In the complaint, Heimsness is accused of using department property inappropriately, making racist and sexist comments, disrespecting supervisors, and using offensive language, among other transgressions.

Heimsness is also accused of talking about non-work topics on work hours and misusing firearms.

For instance, on September 7, 2012, the complain claims Heimsness sent the following message to another officer from the Mobile Data Computer system assigned to them at work:

"Sometimes they forget they are not in Africa anymore. The social mores are not the same."

Heimsness told the investigators the person he was talking about was literally from Africa.

In addition, the complaint reveals violent statements made by Heimsness, again on the department’s internal computer system. Those included statements such as, "I should have blasted that guy with the knife through my window the other day. At least I would have got the weekend off" (from September 8, 2012), and "I'm ready to go on a shooting spree up in dispatch" (from September 9, 2012).

On November 7, 2012, two days before the Heimsness shooting, the complaint states Heimsness started a comment with “one of these days I'm going to snap…”

The same day Heenan was shot and killed, Heimsness sent the following comments to a fellow officer: "I'm the right cop for the wrong job," and "No witnesses, no problem."

In all, nine of the offenses listed in Wray’s complaint to the PFC happened within a week of the November shooting.

"The fact that these came out after Paul Heenan does nothing to alleviate or exonerate the chiefs and their responsibility of making sure the force is safe and operating in an ethical capacity," Nate Royko-Maurer said.

The complaint goes on to mention derogatory comments made on the internal computer system. Some of them were made against female officers. Some were specifically directed at a Latina woman on the force, with Heimsness saying things such as "Ay caramba" and "Jesus Christo" in exchanges with another officer on multiple occasions in September and October of last year.

Other comments were directed at other co-workers, many of them toward dispatch. On September 14, 2012, Heimsness reportedly sent "I don't know what's worse, the dumb drunks or dumb dispatchers" to another officer on the Mobile Data Computer system.

Another incident detailed in the report describes a time when Heimsness took another officer's rifle from a squad car, put it in a soft case, and put it on a tall shelf out of reach.

That happened in October 2012, according to the complaint.

The complaint also said Heimsness field-stripped another officer's handgun inappropriately. That happened in December 2008 and January 2009.

The Royko-Maurers have filed their own complaint to the PFC asking for the removal of Heimsness from the force.

However, they said this move by Wray does not satisfy their demands, and it frustrated them that the request to fire Heimsness was kept separate from November’s shooting.

"Had they woke up this morning and said that, you'd feel like, we may have felt like, all right, maybe we have some leaders on our hands. But no," Amelia stated. "This is an attempt to save their careers and we want them out."

The couple said they want Chief Wray and his other top officers off the force as well.

"What are we supposed to do to make sure that we get confidence, that we can have confidence that everybody is on our side, that everybody is really working with the public's best interest in mind?" Nate mentioned. "We can't if this is what it takes to root out someone with this deep of a history of unprofessional, hateful, bigoted, racist, sexist, violent speech."

"You can't call aspects of a person's character into question and fire them for those aspects and how they have projected them into the workplace, and then say, and then draw a circle around 15 seconds and say, well we trusted him there," Amelia said.

Chief Wray said in his letter that he will not comment publicly on the complaint until any hearings were complete.

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