Milwaukee police chief: shooting victim and officer who shot him are both black

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MILWAUKEE, Wis. – The Wisconsin congresswoman who represents Milwaukee is asking the community to stay calm in the wake of a police shooting that wracked the city’s north side.

Rep. Gwen Moore, a Democrat, said she understands some city residents who think justice isn’t available to everyone. Moore said racial inequities must be pointed out peacefully, but no one should “take out their aggressions on our local businesses and homes.”

City officials said Sunday that 23-year-old Sylville Smith, who was black, was shot by a black police officer as Smith fled a traffic stop. They said a still frame from the officer’s body camera shows Smith was holding a handgun and refused to drop it when ordered.

Violence broke out Saturday evening a few hours after Smith’s death, with six businesses set on fire, 17 people arrested and four officers hurt. Gov. Scott Walker has put National Guard members at Chief Edward Flynn’s disposal if needed.

Officials in Milwaukee have tallied the damage from overnight violence on the city’s north side after a fatal shooting by police.

Flynn said six businesses were set on fire Saturday, 17 unruly protesters were arrested and four officers were injured by flying concrete or glass. That includes a female officer who was concussed and needed seven stitches after being struck by concrete.

Flynn said Sunday that the department’s gunshot tracking technology picked up several possible shots during the chaos, and a 16-year-old girl was taken to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries after being hit by a stray bullet.

Mayor Tom Barrett said he’s proud of officers for showing what he called “tremendous restraint.” He says they did not fire a shot.

Milwaukee police said both the man whose fatal shooting sparked violent protests in the city and the police officer who shot him are black.

Flynn made the disclosure at a news conference Sunday. Flynn said Smith had a “lengthy arrest record.”

Barrett said a still image pulled from the officer’s body camera shows “without question” that Smith had a gun in his hand when he was shot.

Police earlier said Smith fled from a traffic stop. Flynn said he wasn’t sure what prompted the stop, but said Smith’s car was “behaving suspiciously.”

Protesters burned several stores and threw rocks at police in the city’s north side, leaving one officer injured. Smoke and orange flames filled the night sky.

The incident started Saturday afternoon when two officers stopped two people who were in a car in the north side, according to the Milwaukee Police Department.

Shortly after, both car occupants ran away and officers chased them, police said.

During the chase, an officer shot one Smith, who was armed with a handgun, according to authorities.

“He (officer) ordered that individual to drop his gun, the individual did not drop his gun,” Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said. “He had the gun with him and the officer fired several times.”

Smith died at the scene. It’s unclear whether the second occupant of the car is in police custody.

‘All-out-effort’ to restore order

Hours after the shooting, a large crowd turned out to protest later that night. Some demonstrators threw objects at police cars, leaving one officer hospitalized after a brick struck him in the head, the mayor said.

Some protesters set buildings ablaze, including a gas station, a beauty shop, a bank and an auto shop.

Three people who were in the gas station rushed out before it went up in flames, the mayor said.

Go home, mayor pleads

As the chaos escalated, authorities implored the crowds to disperse and go home. Some used social media to urge others to come out and take part in the protests, according to Barrett.

“If you love your son, if you love your daughter text them, call them, pull them by the ears and get them home. Get them home right now before more damage is done,” the mayor said.

The mayor said police presence will be strong as part of an “all-out-effort” to restore order. At least three people have been arrested, he said.

The shooting occurred near the scene of a double homicide that happened this month. In the related attacks August 9, a man was shot dead while another one was fatally stabbed, police said.

“This is a neighborhood that has unfortunately been affected by violence in the recent past,” Barrett said.

“I know this neighborhood very very well. And there are a lot of really really good people who live in this area — in the Sherman Park area, who can’t stand this violence.”

At 3:20 a.m. Sunday, police tweeted that they are restoring order and “reducing deployments.”

Local officials plan to meet with church and community leaders Sunday to discuss ways to move forward.

Police: Suspect had stolen gun

Smith was shot twice, in the arm and chest, the mayor said. His handgun was stolen during a burglary in Waukesha in March, according to police.

“The victim of that burglary reported 500 rounds of ammunition were also stolen with the handgun,” police said in a statement.

The officer, 24, was assigned to District 7 and has six years of service with the Milwaukee Police Department, three of those as an officer.

He was not injured and will be placed on administrative duty during the investigation and subsequent review by the district attorney’s office.

At the time of the shooting, he was wearing a body camera, Barrett said, adding that it was his understanding that it was operational.

By state law, the Wisconsin Department of Justice will lead the investigation.