At least one person was wounded after shots were fired and protesters threw objects at police in Milwaukee late Sunday night, a day after violence erupted overnight in the wake of the fatal shooting of a man by police, authorities said.
Police said they were deploying armored vehicles to protect officers and to rescue a shooting victim, who was rushed to a hospital. At midnight Monday, police declared the protest an unlawful assembly and announced that they would begin making arrests.
The National Guard was activated Sunday, but Mayor Tom Barrett said they wouldn’t be deployed unless police deemed that they were needed. “I’m hopeful that that will not be necessary,” Barrett said. “But if it is necessary, we will do so.”
Barrett urged parents to keep their children home Sunday night.
“This is still a volatile situation. I don’t know what’s going to happen tonight,” he said, adding that a curfew would be enforced if needed. At least 150 specially trained officers will be patrolling in pairs Sunday night, police said.
The state is investigating the shooting, which killed Sylville K. Smith, 23, after he fled a police traffic stop on foot. Milwaukee Police Chief Edward said body camera video that hasn’t been released shows that there was a “credible threat” to the officer, who has been identified only as a 24-year-old African-American man.
At some point during the brief chase, Smith turned toward the officer with the gun in his hand, Flynn said, citing the video. Smith had a “lengthy arrest record” and 23 rounds in his gun, authorities said.
The officer has been placed on administrative duty pending an investigation. He has also left town in light of threats against him and other police officers, Flynn said.
Volunteers spent Sunday morning sweeping and picking up debris from the chaos of the night before — including bricks, bottle and bullet casings — after about 100 protesters clashed with a couple of dozen officers in a predominantly black north Milwaukee neighborhood.
“I commend the citizens who volunteered in clean-up efforts this morning,” Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said. 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.”
Four businesses were destroyed or burned badly, seven squad cars were damaged, and four officers were injured in the chaos Saturday night. Seventeen people were arrested, and 48 shots or series of shots were fired, according to police. A teenage girl was injured by a stray bullet, police said.
Officials said no shots were fired by police, and there have been no reports of use of force by officers.
“Last night was unlike anything I have seen in my adult life in this city,” Barrett said. “I’m very proud of the way our police officers and firefighters responded.”
The protesters were largely black, and Alderman Khalif Rainey — who represents the district — said early Sunday that the city’s black residents are “tired of living under this oppression.”
“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 at the end of a news conference at which Barrett pleaded for calm. “Now this is a warning cry. Where do we go from here? Where do we go as a community from here?
Milwaukee was beset by protests and calls for police reform after an officer fatally shot Dontre Hamilton, a mentally ill black man, in 2014. In December, the U.S. Justice Department announced that it would work with Milwaukee police on reforms.
Flynn had asked for what’s known as a collaborative reform process after the federal government said it wouldn’t pursue criminal civil rights charges against the officer.
More than 100 people holding candles and paper signs reading “BlackLivesMatter” had gathered early Sunday night at a local park, then marched to the site of the shooting. The peaceful protest was later disrupted by skirmishes.
Police said angry crowds pelted officers with rocks, concrete and debris after authorities declared the gathering in the Sherman Park neighborhood of Milwaukee an unlawful assembly and threatened arrests.
One injured cop was taken to the hospital after a rock broke the windshield of his squad car, according to the force.
The violence escalated after 11 p.m. local time (12 a.m. ET) when gunfire was reported. Police said officers used an armored vehicle to rush one shooting victim to the hospital. The 18-year-old victim was being treated for serious injuries, according to NBC affiliate WTMJ.
WTMJ reported that while most of the protesters had dispersed by around 1 a.m. local time, isolated incidents continued. A car was set ablaze and more shots were reported, according to police.
The force said officers were making “multiple” arrests.
Officials have been appealing for calm since the violence erupted Saturday night in wake of the fatal police shooting of Sylville K. Smith, 23. Businesses were burned, a cop car was torched and property destroyed.
Police have said Smith — who was black — was armed with a handgun and fleeing a traffic stop on foot when he was killed by a 24-year-old African-American officer.
Body camera video that hasn’t been released shows that there was a “credible threat” to the officer, according to Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Edward A. Flynn.
At one point Smith — who authorities said had a “lengthy” arrest record — turned toward the officer with the gun in his hand, Flynn said. Authorities said Smith’s gun held 23 rounds.
The state is investigating the shooting.
The officer has been placed on administrative duty pending an investigation. He has also left town in light of threats against him and other police officers, according to Flynn.
Smith’s sister told The Associated Press that the family wants prosecutors to charge the officer who shot him.
Kimberly Neal, 24, spoke as supporters surrounded her at the vigil as she held a bouquet of blue balloons.
When asked about the violence, Neal said: “People stuck together and they are trying to stand up,” for their rights.
The National Guard had been activated and put on standby Sunday.
Smith’s death comes amid nationwide tensions over police use of force — which has spurred protests but also deadly violence against officers.
The Milwaukee Police Association hit back at the suggestion race may have played an issue in Smith’s shooting and condemned the riots.
“Leadership must denounce violent riotous behavior! There can be no appropriateness in rationalizing terrorist-like actions,” it said in a statement. “The thugs that caused this are certainly terrorists and must be held accountable.”