Kong Her’s religious faith has been questioned since a drunk driver killed his brother, an off-duty Milwaukee police officer, in 2019.
But nearly three years later, when the official was due to receive his prison sentence, that did not stop him from expressing his forgiveness.
“We forgive you, Dante,” Her said, speaking on behalf of his family. “God loves you and we hope you will change your life.”
Dante James, 37, was sentenced to 25 years in prison on Tuesday for running a red light at twice the speed limit and crashing into the vehicle being driven by Kou Her, 27, in June 2019. He will spend another 13 years under state surveillance. .
She was a beloved veteran of the Milwaukee Police Department for two years, remembered as a role model in the Hmong community. On the night of the accident, he was returning home from a patrol shift in District 4.
The incident came shortly after three Milwaukee Police Department officers were killed in the line of duty, and his death drew reactions from a number of officials, including Governor Tony Evers.
A dozen Milwaukee uniformed police officers, among a group of about 30 bystanders, watched the proceedings on Tuesday.
At the time of the accident, James had already accumulated four prior OWI convictions and still had his driver’s license revoked and had been on probation since his last, in 2018.
He was charged with five crimes in connection with the 2019 crash, but did not reach a plea deal with prosecutors until nearly three years later on April 1.
He pleaded guilty to homicide by impaired operation of a vehicle and reckless first-degree endangerment of safety. The other charges were dismissed.
Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge JD Watts called the justice system’s attempts to correct his behavior a “colossal record of failures” but blamed James squarely.
“The truth is, Mr. James, you are dangerous, violent and reckless,” Watts said. “Ultimately, the personal responsibility rests with you.”
James’ drunk driving history led Assistant District Attorney Michael Schindhelm to seek a maximum prison sentence of 30 years. He argued James’ four previous cases demonstrated there was no reason he shouldn’t re-offend. Jail, probation, a revoked driver’s license, being ordered into treatment — none of that has worked before, Schindhelm said.
He also discussed the circumstances of his past drunk driving offences. A previous incident, in which James crashed into a tree, left him in a coma for five weeks. In another, a cold case of beer and his 13-year-old daughter were in the car with him.
“We just can’t keep doing the same thing,” Schindhelm said.
In a brief statement, James said he was “deeply sorry” for his actions three years ago. He introduced himself as an alcoholic who had been drinking since he was 17, when his older brother told him that alcohol, rather than the drugs he had been taking since he was 10, would better treat his problems of mental health.
James’ lawyer, Peter Kovac, called Schindhelm’s 30-year jail term request “arrogant” and pointed out that his client’s addiction was a medical condition that needed proper care.
James said the justice system had never forced him to receive treatment for his issues before.
“I need help,” he said. “I ask the courts to please give me the help I need.”
She earned an associate’s degree in criminal justice at Milwaukee Area Technical College in 2015. Shortly after the crash, then-police chief Alfonso Morales said he came from a family of eight other siblings, and that his father, a Vietnam veteran, was “very proud”. the first son of the family to be a policeman and serve our community.
In the days following his death, Evers ordered all American and Wisconsin flags flown at half mast for three days in his honor. He called her “a role model in the Hmong community”.
Kong Her said at Tuesday’s hearing that his family went through tremendous pain after losing someone they loved “to something stupid”.
The accident happened at the intersection of North 60th Street and West Capitol Drive shortly after 2 a.m. on June 18, 2019, as she was returning home from a patrol shift in District 4.
James, meanwhile, had spent much of the previous day drinking, he later told police, according to the criminal complaint. His employer told police that James showed up for work at 3 p.m. inebriated.
When he was escorted to a clinic for a preliminary breath test, he asked if anyone could “fag” the test or do it for him, according to the complaint. When he blew a blood alcohol level over twice the legal driving limit, he was fired immediately.
He then continued to drink at his cousin’s house and at a bar before being fired, according to the complaint.
James ignored a red light at the intersection and was traveling at 100 km/h, more than double the speed limit, a second before impact, according to data from his vehicle, according to the complaint. James fled the scene on foot but was quickly apprehended when an officer noticed him stumbling and bleeding from the face.