Milwaukee, WI – The man who caused the death of a 23-year-old police officer on June 7 should have been in jail.
Ladell Harrison, 28, was released on a signature bond only nine days before he led police officers on a chase that ended in a crash that killed Milwaukee Police Officer Charley Irvine and seriously injured his partner, Officer Matthew Schulze.
“I thought you guys couldn’t pursue vehicles unless it was a felony,” Harrison told detectives the police car chasing him flipped over, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
Harrison later told police that he’d fled police because he knew his license was revoked, and he had a gun in the car, along with his five-year-old son, according to WITI.
The community was outraged to learn that Harrison had just been released from jail.
Despite the fact that Harrison had twice failed to show up for court after his license had been revoked, a Milwaukee County court commissioner named Barry Phillips decided it was a good idea to release Harrison on a $500 signature bond, WITI reported.
This means that Harrison only needed to sign a paper promising to pay $500 if he didn't show up for court.
Wisconsin State Representative Joe Sanfelippo expressed his outrage and said Harrison should not have been out free on the streets.
"[Harrison] has already shown that he's not going to follow the law," Sanfelippo told WITI. "To turn around and release him on a signature bond again? It's foolish. It's mind-boggling, and it shows a callous disregard for public safety."
Harrison has an extensive history of driving-related offenses.
Police caught him driving with a suspended license for the second time in 2010, WITI reported.
In 2017, Harrison was arrested by Wauwatosa police for driving with a license that had already been revoked for a DUI the prior fall. The criminal complaint said he also had a counterfeit license plate on his car at that time.
Harrison skipped court on two occasions in 2017, and arrest warrants were issued after each failure to appear, WITI reported.
The first time, a different court commissioner gave him a $100 signature bond. The second time, Phillips set a signature bond at $500.
Nine days later, Officer Irvine was dead, and then Harrison was arrested using the fallen officer’s handcuffs.
"All he got was a slap on the wrist and then it escalates each time to the point now, where he gets into this chase with the police officers, where we end up with one dead cop and one seriously injured cop," Sanfelippo said.
Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm wouldn’t comment on the signature bond issue, but he has previously vowed to do a thorough investigation before filing charges.
"We're gonna make sure that we make the appropriate decision to make sure people are held accountable for this loss," he said on June 8.
As it turned out, the Milwaukee High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force had already been investigating Harrison in connection with a fatal heroin overdose in Waukesha County prior to the crash that killed Officer Irvine, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
The information from that investigation allowed detectives to quickly locate Harrison, and take him into custody.
On Tuesday, prosecutors charged Harrison with eleven felonies that included five drug counts, fleeing an officer causing death, and two counts of first-degree recklessly endangering safety, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
He remained in the Milwaukee County Jail with his bail set at $500,000.
“I commend all of those involved in this investigation,” Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales said in a statement after the charges were filed. “I want to thank all members of the Milwaukee Police Department, along with our partner law enforcement agencies for their quick response and assistance.”