“A subject was in the stolen vehicle, surrounded by stolen items, with stolen property in his pocket and not even a Possession of Stolen Property charge” – River Hills police
River Hills police say the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office told them they wouldn’t charge a suspect they caught red-handed sleeping in a stolen vehicle with the keys in his pocket. He also had the vehicle owner’s ID from a home burglary and possessed methamphetamine, police say.
Update: 6 hours after River Hills police went public with the fact the DA’s office told them they wouldn’t charge the suspect with anything, and 5 hours after WRN blew the story up, the DA’s office informed the River Hills chief that they are now charging the suspect with receiving stolen property. We have also learned from a courthouse source that the Milwaukee DA’s office also refused to charge a SEPARATE robbery charge against the suspect referred to them by Milwaukee police last March.
Wisconsin Right Now has learned the suspect is Alan Hernandez-Meraz, 20 (DOB 9/4/02). We placed an open records request with the Milwaukee County Jail, where he was initially booked (according to the River Hills police chief), for more details on his background via the arrest-detention report and a mugshot.
Update: Per the Waukesha County Sheriff, Hernandez-Meraz is in that jail on an ICE immigration hold. Read that story here.
DA Chisholm’s spokesman Kent Lovern responded to our request for comment, saying, “The case is still under review by our office.” We would note that River Hills police say they were told by the DA that the case was NOT being charged.
There is an Alan Hernandez-Meraz who is wanted on a July 27, 2023, warrant out of Racine on criminal charges from that county for almost the same thing: Burglary, theft, and taking an auto without owner’s consent. He has the same birth year as the River Hills suspect, but a juxtaposed month/day in CCAP (4/9/02 vs 9/4/02). The River Hills police chief told us they believe the Hernandez-Meraz wanted in Racine is the same person as the River Hills suspect. There is a person on Facebook with that name, also from Milwaukee, who has posted a picture of guns. We are also trying to verify whether that is the same person.
Alan Hernandez-Meraz, with the same DOB as the River Hills suspect (9/4/02), has an open case out of Waukesha County for cocaine and marijuana possession. He was released on $1,500 cash bail in that case but didn’t show up for court and a warrant was issued, and bail was increased. He required a Spanish interpreter at his initial appearance in March 2023. Another warrant was issued and then bail was reduced to $250 on July 27, 2023. There was a “return on warrant” listed on August 2, 2023.
We spoke with River Hills Police Chief Milton Mrozak. He stressed that he doesn’t “do the district attorney’s job,” and he recognizes that the DA’s office has various pressures, such as caseload issues. However, he said the DA not prosecuting cases is “happening more,” and added, “it gets frustrating for officers and staff. They’re doing a job. They’re doing their best, knowing that probably there will be nothing coming from it other than a no process.”
In fact, the day before, a man led a River Hills officer on a police pursuit. It lasted about a mile before the person pulled over. Chisholm’s office wouldn’t charge that case either, the chief said.
Mrozak said investigating the stolen car situation took 24-48 hours and a lot of resources for a small department like River Hills.
The River Hills’ police statement comes on the heels of our reporting, starting in 2021, that Milwaukee County DA John Chisholm’s office does not charge about a large percentage of felonies (and a larger percentage of misdemeanors). Today, we reported on the findings of a new Wisconsin Policy Forum report that reveals Chisholm’s charging rate was even worse in 2022.
River Hills police cited that report, commissioned in part by the Argosy Foundation, in their statement. “A recent study from Wisconsin Policy Forum showed that only 39.7% of cases referred to the Milwaukee County DA’s Office in 2022 were actually charged,” they wrote.
In the recent car theft case, River Hills police wrote that, during the afternoon of July 22nd, “a resident’s home was burglarized. During the burglary numerous items were stolen and a vehicle was stolen out of the garage.”
Early the next morning, “roughly 14 hours later, we were able to find the vehicle in Milwaukee. The vehicle was parked and in the driver’s seat there was a subject sleeping. In his pocket were the vehicle’s keys and a card belonging to the homeowner,” police wrote. “Throughout the car were numerous items taken from the car. And also in the vehicle were documents that were stolen in a previous burglary in Racine County.”
The case was presented to the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office, according to police, “and they refused to go forward with any charges. No charges of Burglary, Theft of Movable Property, Operating a Vehicle W/O Owner’s Consent, or even Possession of Stolen Property. A subject was in the stolen vehicle, surrounded by stolen items, with stolen property in his pocket and not even a Possession of Stolen Property charge.”
We would note that the Milwaukee DA is refusing to release the names of people he doesn’t charge, denying our open records request for them in 2021. AG Josh Kaul’s office refused to rule on our open records complaint against Chisholm.
We filed an open records request with River Hills police for the police reports.
The chief told us that he believes that even if it couldn’t be proven that the suspect was the burglar, he doesn’t see why a receiving stolen property charge couldn’t be made. Although you’d have to prove the suspect knew it was stolen, he believes the facts, if taken by an aggressive prosecutor to a jury, could result in conviction. He believes there was probable cause for a burglary charge, too.
“In this case, I think that bar can be reached,” he said. “He had a person’s ID card and key fob and stuff. I think a jury could look at this and say, ‘This defense is crap.’ It entails the prosecutor having to work to make the case go.”
The chief said Alan Hernandez-Meraz invoked his right to stay silent.