Officer Devon Kraemer got a rude awakening on march 14, 2016 when…
26 year old Manuel Burnley, weighing roughly 350 pounds, boarded a county bus, deposited two dollars and asked for a transfer that the system had discontinued. Despite the bus driver’s attempts to help him, Burnley spewed a stream of profanity, and the driver wanted him off the bus and sought police nearby for their protection.
The bus driver saw two local police cars and immediately flagged down the officers. Brown Deer Police Officer Devon Kraemer was the first to approach, asking the question all cops do:
“Is there a problem?”
The bus driver said she had a disruptive passenger who she wanted off the bus, a massive man who was seated near the rear exit. Officer Kraemer waved to a second officer—Officer Michael Leeman—for backup and asked to unruly passenger to come to the front of the bus.
When the passenger approached, his stream of profanity began anew, along with his refusal to step off the bus, as the driver was asking. For several moments, the officers listened to the agitated rider who cared little about their authority or their commands that he step off.
He ignored their offers to get off the bus or face a $691 Disorderly Conduct ticket and told them he had no intention of being taken off the bus in handcuffs, saying:
“I’m not getting escorted off in handcuffs. Y’all gonna give me my motherf****n’ money. Ya’ll f****d up.”
The Officers Kraemer and Leeman moved to escort the combative man off the bus by grabbing his arms and directing him to the bus doorway via the front steps. Burnley immediately resisted and, after managing to take him off the bus, the officers attempted to handcuff him.
Officer Kraemer radioed for more help on her but didn’t know if anyone heard the call and never heard a response. Officer Leeman tried to take Burnley off his feet with a bear hug and all three lost their balance and hit the ground forcefully.
The struggle was now a ground fight, with Burnley grabbing at Officer Leeman’s throat as Officer Kraemer struggled to control the left hand of a man who was almost three times her weight. She attempted to control Burnley with several knee strikes to his body, but the strikes had no effect on him.
Seconds later, Burnley wrested his hand away from Officer Kraemer and pulled it under his massive body. As the fight drew on, Officer Kraemer knew she was losing the ability to defend herself or her partner. And, having not yet patted the combative passenger down, she was unaware of any potential deadly weapons Burnley had concealed on his body. And the massive body between her and her partner gave little foresight into how each officer’s partner was managing their half of the fight. Officer Kraemer worried Burnley was in a position to potentially take Officer Leeman’s pistol as fatigue set in.
With the little strength she had left, Officer Kraemer decided she only had one option—the use of deadly force—to end the threat to her life and her partner’s. She knew that using her pepper spray would only contaminate all three combatants.
While fighting to control Burnley’s left hand she could not reach her Taser nor expect it to effectively disable Burnley at this range. She also knew a missed Taser shot could hit her partner. Quickly trying to calculate her few options, Officer Kraemer made the fateful decision to shoot Burnley. While repeatedly shouting for Burnley to stop fighting, she pulled her duty weapon and fired once at Burnley’s back, which immediately ended his resistance.
Manual Burnley was handcuffed, treated at the scene, and taken to the hospital for further treatment for the gunshot wound.
Sadly, this is policing in America today. In return for her and her partner approaching a profane, combative public transportation rider, escorting him off a bus at the insistence of the driver, and attempting to arrest him after he resisted, two police officers are in a fight, they believe, for their lives.
They did not ignore the call for help, they did not look the other way. In return, an officer who believed she was exhausted from the fight with a 360-pound subject who was potentially reaching for a weapon and was well within range of her partner’s weapon, and who fired her weapon at that subject now stands charged with Aggravated Battery, Use of a Dangerous Weapon—a Class E felony with a maximum sentence of a fine of $50,000 or 15 years in prison or both.
Something is wrong when an American police officer fears first for her life and that of her partner, and now fears she will be imprisoned for more than a decade.
We at LELDF will stand behind Brown Deer Police Officer Devon Kraemer. We will do what we have so many other times—fight for her and raise funds for her defense in court and defend her in the court of public opinion. Please stand with us!
UPDATE — APRIL 2018: Devon went to trial in February 2018. Her legal team, supported by expert witnesses, fought hard to assure the jury she had acted legally and properly. After deliberating diligently, the jury informed the judge that they were deadlocked and a mistrial was declared.
We prepared for the worst but hoped the district attorney would recognize the difficulty of convicting an officer who believed she was fighting for her life when she fired a single shot at her attacker. On April 9, 2018, we learned the charges against Devon would be dismissed.
A local paper reported, “What’s we’re still hearing from the jury the message we’re not meeting our burden of proof,” (sic) said Chief Deputy District Attorney Kent Lovern.
What that means is the prosecution knew they couldn’t convince another jury that Devon had committed a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. We knew that long ago. This is another case where a police officer did their job, followed their training, and used their judgment. Devon used the force she believed she had to, nothing more, and she should have never been charged for doing so.
Unfortunately, now she faces a federal civil rights review of her actions so a cloud of uncertainty will continue to hang over her head until that review, too, concludes she broke no laws.