The law against failing to render aid by law enforcement was passed in 1983, after the death of Ernest Lacy in Milwaukee police custody. Lacy died after being arrested for a crime he did not commit. The original bill made the crime a felony if death resulted. However, that provision was removed before the law was passed by the Legislature.
The mother of Williams' three young children, Sharday Rose, said that while she still hopes federal authorities take action, she was happy about Thursday's recommendation for misdemeanor charges.
"At least they didn't get off, didn't walk away," she said of the officers. "It's a breath of relief. At least we can get some justice."
Williams' mother, Sonya Moore, said it was gratifying that after a year and a half, someone finally acknowledged that what police did to her son was wrong.
She said she appreciated the support of community members, who have convened regular protest marches and have demonstrated before the Fire and Police Commission since the video of Williams in the back of the squad car was made public last fall.
"We fought this fight, and it ain't over," Moore said. "No justice, no peace. And we're going to get justice."