M.D. Kittle reports on the weekend riots in Milwaukee:
Protesters – angered after a Milwaukee police officer shot and killed an armed, black robbery suspect – burned six businesses, threw rocks and bricks at police injuring four officers, and damaged or destroyed seven police vehicles, according Barrett.
“Last night was unlike anything I’ve seen,” Barrett said. “I hope I never see it again.”
Killed was 23-year-old Sylville K. Smith, a man with a long and violent rap sheet. Body camera footage showed Smith was carrying a handgun loaded with 23 rounds, police said. He out-armed the officer who shot him. The officer appeared to have acted according to procedure in discharging his weapon
“He had the gun with him and the officer fired several times,” Barrett said. Smith was shot in the arm and chest, the mayor said during a press conference.
Police said the handgun he carried was stolen during a burglary in nearby Waukesha in March, according to CNN
“The victim of that burglary reported 500 rounds of ammunition were also stolen with the handgun,” police said.
His police record includes a charge of first-degree recklessly endangering safety. The charge was dismissed after the victim refused to go to court. Smith was charged with victim intimidation in 2015. That charge also was dismissed.
Barrett tried to placate angry community members, who called for the release of the officer’s body camera. But the investigation is now in the hands of state investigators. Wisconsin was the first state in the nation to put on the books a law requiring an independent investigation anytime there is a law-enforcement related shooting.
[Gov. Scott] Walker, Barrett and others commended police, saying they showed remarkable restraint in not firing any shots during the riots. A 16-year-old was injured when a stray round from a crowd struck her. The teen’s injuries were described as non-life threatening.
Mike Crivello, president of the Milwaukee Police Association, said the union denounces the suggestion by community members, and some city leaders, that the department is teeming with racism. Police say the officer who shot the armed suspect is black. They had not released his name as of Sunday afternoon.“
Our ranks are broad and diverse; derived from all God’s children. These officers deserve respect and support. Support which must begin with leadership – mayor/alderpersons, police chief, and community!” Crivello wrote in a statement.
“Leadership must denounce violent riotous behavior! There can be no appropriateness in rationalizing terrorist-like actions,” the union chief added. “The good families, beautiful young children, living in the neighborhoods where police were attacked and buildings burned certainly did not sleep well last night; how could they, when will they? The thugs that caused this are certainly terrorists and must be held accountable.”
Saying Milwaukee police are “under siege,” Crivello in his press release included a video clip of angry, black men shouting at Milwaukee police.
“We cannot cohabitate with white people,” one unidentified speaker said. “We want blood. We don’t want peace or justice.”
Alderman Khalif Rainey blamed the “powder keg” of Milwaukee on rampant racism.
“Something has to be done to address these issues,” he said. “The black people of Milwaukee are tired; they are tired of living under this oppression, this is their life.”
Crivello said he, Milwaukee’s peace officers, and law-abiding citizens have had enough excuses. He called on Milwaukee voters to stop supporting any elected official who “does not unequivocally support the law as written, while ensuring enforcement.”
“Our police force is under staffed – our officers forced to work alone. We must be assured of Permanent Two-Man Squads. … We must adequately [immediately] address the staffing deficit!! Our family deserves to know their loved one has a fighting chance to come home after each tour of duty,” the police union chief wrote.
Smith’s father, Patrick, spoke to WITI-TV (channel 6) in Milwaukee, and started to say the expected things …
“What are we gonna do now? Everyone playing their part in this city, blaming the white guy or whatever, and we know what they’re doing. Like, already I feel like they should have never OK’d guns in Wisconsin. They already know what our black youth was doing anyway. These young kids gotta realize this is all a game with them. Like they’re playing Monopoly. You young kids falling into their world, what they want you to do. Everything you do is programmed. … They got us killing each other and when they even OK’d them pistols and they OK’d a reason to kill us too. Now somebody got killed reaching for his wallet, but now they can say he got a gun on him and they reached for it. And that’s justifiable. When we allowed them to say guns is good and it’s legal, we can bear arms. This is not the wild, wild west y’all. But when you go down to 25th and Center, you see guys with guns hanging out this long, that’s ridiculous, and they’re allowing them to do this and the police know half of them don’t have a license to carry a gun. I don’t know when we’re gonna start moving.
… only to say something unexpected:
I had to blame myself for a lot of things too because your hero is your dad and I played a very big part in my family’s role model for them. Being on the street, doing things of the street life: Entertaining, drug dealing and pimping and they’re looking at their dad like ‘he’s doing all these things.’ I got out of jail two months ago, but I’ve been going back and forth in jail and they see those things so I’d like to apologize to my kids because this is the role model they look up to. When they see the wrong role model, this is what you get. … I’ve gotta start with my kids and we gotta change our ways, to be better role models. And we gotta change ourselves. We’ve gotta talk to them, put some sense into them. They targeting us, but we know about it so there’s no reason to keep saying it’s their fault. You play a part in it. If you know there’s a reason, don’t give in to the hand, don’t be going around with big guns, don’t be going around shooting each other and letting them shoot y’all cause that’s just what they’re doing and they’re out to destroy us and we’re falling for it.”
Sylville Smith’s sisters said similar things:
“I lost my brother. I can’t get him back. Never. Never. That’s pain. I can’t look him in the eye no more,” Smith’s sister Sherelle said.
“At the end of the day, acting out ain’t gonna solve it. Ain’t gonna solve nothing for Sylville. The city went crazy (Saturday) night over Syville. We tired of it. We tired,” Kimberly Neal, Smith’s sister said.