MILWAUKEE — Police used an armored vehicle to retrieve a man who was shot late Sunday during a second night of tension following an officer’s fatal shooting of a black man a day earlier, according to the Associated Press. Police did not offer details of how the shooting happened.
Earlier Sunday, police officials said that both the officer and the man he fatally shot here Saturday were black — giving the first details of a traffic stop that led to a death, then a night of protest and violence.
The dead man was identified as Sylville K. Smith, 23. Police said he and another man were pulled over about 3:30 p.m. Saturday. The two men fled, prompting the officer — a black 24-year-old with six years of experience — to chase them, Police Chief Edward Flynn told reporters Sunday.
Flynn said the stop was made for a vehicle that drew officers’ suspicion and turned out to be a rental car. He said about 25 seconds elapsed before Smith, who had run a few dozen feet, was shot.
Smith was hit in the chest and arm, Flynn said, after he ran to a fenced area and turned toward the officer, holding a gun. Smith died at the scene, and a second 23-year-old man was taken into custody. There was no evidence that Smith fired his weapon, which was loaded with 23 bullets, the chief said.
After the shooting, violence erupted on the city’s predominantly black north side, an area with a history of violence and distrust between police and the community. Flynn said four officers were hurt, and a 16-year-old girl was hit by what was thought to be crossfire, suffering non-life-threatening injuries. He said 17 people were arrested, most for civil disobedience but four on burglary charges. Six businesses were burned, and seven squad cars were damaged.
City officials pleaded with parents to help prevent a repeat of the violence Sunday. “Tell [kids] to stay away from this area,” Mayor Tom Barrett said. “Let’s calm things down.” He said there were no plans for a curfew but that one would be enforced if needed.
But late Sunday, violent erupted after hours of peaceful protests. In addition to the shooting, a police officer was taken to the hospital for an unspecified injury caused when rocks thrown at a police vehicle broke the windshield, according to a Twitter message posted by the Milwaukee police.
Earlier in day, a woman identifying herself as Smith’s mother told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that police have offered her little information about her son’s killing.
“My son is gone due to the police killing my son,” Mildred Haynes told the paper Sunday. “I am lost.”
Gov. Scott Walker (R) released a statement Sunday afternoon saying he had activated the Wisconsin National Guard to “aid local law enforcement upon request.”
Police officials, however, said they did not need the help. Flynn said an extra 150 officers were on duty Sunday.
In his statement, the governor commended volunteers who went to the neighborhood to clean up:
“This act of selfless caring sets a powerful example for Milwaukee’s youth and the entire community. I join Milwaukee’s leaders and citizens in calling for continued peace and prayer.”
“It is also important for citizens to know that Wisconsin is the first state in the nation to have a law requiring an independent investigation anytime there is a shooting by a law enforcement officer that leads to a death,” the statement added.
Within hours of the shooting, a crowd formed, skirmishing with police who had arrived in riot gear. Squad cars were smashed, and a vehicle was set on fire. Later, someone in the crowd reportedly fired shots in the air.
A reporter and a photographer from the Journal Sentinel were chased from the scene and assaulted by someone in the crowd, the paper reported.
A gas station was set on fire about 10 p.m., police said, but firefighters could not reach the site because of gunfire. Three people working inside the station got out safely aided by community members, police said. Fires were also started at businesses including a bank, a beauty supply company and an auto parts store, according to Milwaukee TV station WISN.
By 2 a.m., a supermarket and a liquor store also had been set on fire, the station reported.
Authorities said no law enforcement officers discharged weapons overnight, but there was widespread shooting in the area. Police said rioters damaged seven squad cars and that a military-style police vehicle was hit by eight rounds of gunfire. The four injured officers were treated and released, police said.
Alderman Khalif Rainey linked the violence to the ongoing tension between police and frustrated black city residents, the Journal Sentinel reported. He called the area where the shooting occurred “a powder keg.”
“This entire community has sat back and witnessed how Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has become the worst place to live for African Americans in the entire country,” Rainey said. “Now this is a warning cry. Where do we go from here? Where do we go as a community from here?”
“Do we continue — continue with the inequities, the injustice, the unemployment, the undereducation that creates these byproducts that we see this evening? . . . The black people of Milwaukee are tired. They’re tired of living under this oppression. This is their existence. This is their life. This is the life of their children.”
Capt. Mark Stanmeyer told WISN that Smith had a “lengthy arrest record.” Police said he was carrying a semiautomatic handgun traced to a burglary in March.
Late Sunday afternoon, a chaotic but peaceful scene surrounded the wreckage from the previous night, with street-corner preachers and police, satellite trucks and crowds of young men milling around the burned-out BP station on a cloudless and humid day.
“This is something that ISIS would do,” Marie Polk, 50, said, using an acronym for the Islamic State militant group, while gesturing toward the mess of tangled steel beams and charred white bricks. Two cars and a van were parked outside, burned-up husks of metal. “I’m not for this, but it shows very, very deep anger.”
Polk, a paraprofessional at a Milwaukee elementary school, said the people who stoked the riots Saturday represent a new, more aggressive sense of activism among the Black Lives Matter movement.
“They’re not putting up with stuff we put up with,” she said. “Our young people are just tired” of limited job opportunities, poverty and widespread imprisonment.
After church on Sunday, she walked around the scene — a wide, grassy boulevard and expansive park across the street provided ample space to gather — and hugged strangers, telling them, “I love you.”
“I just hope they don’t commit violence tonight,” she said, adding that she and others planned to return to the scene after dark to pray alongside the young people and diffuse tensions that might arise.
Johnny Martin, 19, lives near the BP station and called Smith, who was shot, a longtime friend. He said Smith was widely known and well liked, making the shooting personal and raw for the protesters. He, like most on scene, said he heard Smith was shot in the back. Flynn and Barrett said initial footage from a body camera worn by the officer showed no evidence of such. He instead pointed to gunshot wounds to the chest and arm. The officer who fired the shots had not been interviewed about it as of Sunday afternoon as the state began its investigation.
Martin looked at the dozens of young men gathered around Redd’s Snapper, a seafood restaurant across the street from BP, and saw trouble.
“There’s going to be something going on tonight,” he said. “You feel it. You know. They’re already talking about it, messing stuff up and shooting at police. They’re just waiting until it gets dark.”
But he did not want to be involved. He is just a month out of prison, he said, and planned to steer clear of any trouble.
Holley reported from Washington