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Lawsuit claims Madison cop used excessive force in death of musician

MADISON, WI (WTAQ) - A new lawsuit alleges that Madison police officer Stephen Heimsness used unnecessary and excessive force when he shot an unarmed musician to death last November.

Relatives of 30-year-old Paul Heenan filed suit Thursday, claiming that Heimsness could have used less drastic options to break up a scuffle between Heenan and a neighbor.

Previous news accounts said Heenan was so drunk that night, he thought his neighbor’s house was his own – and he got into a scuffle with the neighbor soon afterward.

Police said Heimsness was trying to break up the dispute when Heenan was reaching for the officer’s gun – and that’s when Heimsness shot and killed Heenan.

The family disputes the official police account. They said Heenan was too drunk to be aggressive, and he could have been subdued with only a little effort. They said Heimsness could have used pepper spray, a baton, or a Taser stun gun on Heenan – but the officer used his most lethal option.

Jim Palmer of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association said multiple agencies have cleared Heimsness of wrongdoing – and the officer will let the fact speak for themselves in defending his lawsuit.

Outgoing Madison Police Chief Noble Wray and the city are also defendants. They did not immediately comment. 

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