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To his family, Maxwell J. Holt seemed to have turned a corner.

After spending more than a decade in prison for armed robbery, Holt had recently gotten a new job and talked of wanting to buy a house and start a family.

"We're finding that he almost lived two different lives," his stepsister, Faye Wolff, said Tuesday. 

"There's his life of crime," she said. "But to everybody who wasn't in the life of crime, he would act like everything was perfect."

Holt, 37, of Milwaukee, died during an encounter with West Allis and New Berlin police last weekend.

He was suspected of robbing a George Webb restaurant and shooting at police, according to initial information released by authorities.

At some point, police found him hiding in a Dumpster and fired their weapons, officials have said. Holt was found dead inside the Dumpster.

"The biggest question we have is what exactly happened? Did he get shot inside the garbage? Did he try to get out and then they shot him?" Wolff said.

"We're just getting little bits and pieces."

As required by state law, the officer-involved shooting is being investigated by an outside agency: the Milwaukee County Investigative Team. The Oak Creek Police Department is leading the probe.

"We understand that there are still questions in regards to this incident, and we also have a duty to thoroughly investigate," Oak Creek Capt. David Stecker said Tuesday in a news release.

Stecker said more updates will be provided as they become available.

Robbery, then shooting

A news release from West Allis and New Berlin police issued last weekend provided some initial information.

The incident began about 1:10 a.m. Saturday when two people committed an armed robbery at a George Webb restaurant, 7227 W. Greenfield Ave.

Employees said they were robbed at gunpoint and police received reports the suspects were in a white vehicle.

About 1:15 a.m., a West Allis police officer spotted the vehicle near S. 62nd and W. Burnham streets, roughly a mile southeast of where the robbery occurred.

The passenger, later identified as Holt, got out of the car, opened fire and ran away.

The driver sped off.

West Allis and New Berlin police officers eventually located Holt hiding in a Dumpster. Officers fired their guns "during an encounter." 

After that, the man was "declared deceased at the scene."

No officers were injured.

Officers found the vehicle involved in the incident but continue to investigate who was driving at the time of the robbery, West Allis Deputy Police Chief Robert Fletcher said in an email.

The robbery investigation is ongoing, he said.

Troubled youth

When he was 10, Holt came to live with Wolff, her mother and his father in Shorewood.

Over the next couple of years, Holt got picked up by police for stealing and having a gun and was sent to Lincoln Hills School for Boys, a state youth prison, Wolff said.

His biological mother committed suicide when he was young, she said.

At 17, Holt was convicted of armed robbery as an adult and sentenced to 25 years in prison. He served 17 years before receiving parole.

While he was in prison, his father died from cancer. Holt didn't learn about his death until he was close to release, Wolff said.

"He got out after 17 years, but with him being a convicted felon, not having any job history, he was really finding it hard to get a job and start back up on his feet," Wolff said.

Last May, Holt fell off a bar stool at a West Allis tavern and bloodied his face. His girlfriend worried he received a concussion and called 911. Holt wanted to avoid police and left the bar, according to a criminal complaint.

Police and paramedics caught up with Holt, who was highly intoxicated, and began to treat him. Holt became agitated and aggressive. He screamed death threats at officers and ripped out medical cords, prompting officers to handcuff him to a stretcher, the complaint says. 

He was convicted of two misdemeanor counts of disorderly conduct last August and sent back to prison for violating his parole. He had been required to maintain absolute sobriety.

He was released in late February, according to online state Department of Corrections records.

Connecting with family

Wolff, who lives in Appleton, last spoke to her stepbrother about three weeks ago. 

"We were talking about how I loved him and that we're always here for him whenever he wants to try to get his act together," she said.

Holt said he loved her, too, and asked her to visit Milwaukee with her children. He wanted to meet his niece and nephew. He talked about his job and wanting to start his own family.

A sister of Wolff and Holt's who lives in Michigan said they want to see any video footage of the shooting at the Dumpster, including any from officers' body cameras if they were wearing them.

"He really was a good person and I don't know why he did this," Wolff said. "We thought he was on a good path. I don't know what happened."

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