Report: Poor planning contributed to police shooting at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin

Milwaukee police have made several changes in policy and training to avoid similar situations in the future

June 04--Poor planning and lack of communication contributed to an officer-involved shooting that resulted in a lockdown at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin in November, according to newly released Milwaukee police records.

No one was disciplined as a result of several missteps by Milwaukee police personnel, according to a summary of the internal investigation released to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel as a result of a public records request.

The Police Department has made several changes in policy and training to avoid a similar situation in the future, according to a separate report, which Chief Edward Flynn plans to share Thursday with the civilian Fire and Police Commission.

The incident began when Milwaukee police received a call Nov. 14 from a woman who said she was concerned about Ashanti Hendricks, 23, being at the hospital because he had a history of mistreating his former girlfriend and their new baby, records say. There was a warrant out for Hendricks' arrest, and he had a habit of carrying a gun, the caller said.

Milwaukee police officers Alexis Acosta and Matthew Thompson went to Children's and found Hendricks holding the baby on a futon. Acosta asked Hendricks to put the baby in a car seat, while Hendricks repeatedly asked the officer to take the infant.

When Acosta told Hendricks to show his hands, he got up from the futon and ran from the room. Acosta was uncertain what happened to the baby, who ended up on the floor with a fractured skull.

During a brief but terrifying chase, Hendricks -- who had a gun -- got away from officers several times before Acosta shot him in the arm. Hendricks was ultimately arrested and charged with several felonies, which remain pending.

Thompson told internal investigators he and Acosta had shown up at the hospital without a plan for what they would do when they found Hendricks, according to the internal affairs report.

The two officers asked a hospital security guard for directions to Hendricks' son's room, but did not tell the guard what they were doing there. The guard did not ask, the summary says.

Neither Acosta nor Thompson knew Children's Hospital is in Wauwatosa -- not Milwaukee -- and they did not know the Milwaukee County Sheriff's Department had primary jurisdiction there, the summary says.

Because the initial call came in on the Police Department's non-emergency line, it was transferred to the differential response unit, which is staffed mainly by limited-duty officers who are supposed to deal with low-priority calls over the phone.

The differential response officer, Todd Rendon, upgraded the call to priority one, which should be reserved for the most serious crimes, such as shootings or armed robberies in progress, and sent it to dispatch.

Rendon told internal affairs "he did not receive any training regarding the prioritization of calls," according to the summary. Rendon also thought the hospital was in the city of Milwaukee.

The dispatcher assumed Rendon had dealt with the call appropriately and dispatched it as priority one. Nonetheless, the officers did not arrive at the hospital until more than half an hour later.

As the incident unfolded, the missteps continued. The first backup officer who arrived could not get into the hallway where the struggle was occurring because the doors to the neonatal unit were locked. A hospital employee eventually let him in.

The Milwaukee Police radio system, known as Open Sky, was not operating effectively, according to the summary.

"Open Sky coverage inside the facility was found to be marginal at best; however this was not surprising considering the location and heavy construction of the hospital complex," the summary says.

When Hendricks eventually dropped his gun, it "was left unattended in the hallway," the summary says.

Acosta asked a hospital security guard to get the gun, but the guard did not, so Acosta went to get the weapon himself, leaving Thompson alone with a still-struggling Hendricks, the summary says. Hendricks, who was handcuffed, got away and ran, not stopping until he encountered another officer pointing a shotgun at him.

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