Riots Follow Fatal Police Shooting In Milwaukee

Aug 14, 2016
Originally published on August 14, 2016 11:10 am

Riots erupted in Milwaukee's north side late Saturday night, in the same neighborhood a police officer fatally shot a 23-year-old man earlier in the day.

Milwaukee police said in a statement that at approximately 3:30 p.m., two uniformed officers stopped two male occupants in a car, who proceeded to flee the scene on foot.

During the chase, a 24-year-old male officer shot and killed one of the men they described as a "suspect," who was armed with a semiautomatic handgun. He died as a result of his injuries at the scene. The entire episode took place within the 3200 block of N. 44th Street.

It's unclear if the man shot by the officer had aimed or attempted to fire his weapon at the 24-year-old male officer who stopped him, Milwaukee Police Assistant Chief Bill Jessup told reporters, adding that police have yet to interview the officer.

As NPR's Cheryl Corley told Weekend Edition Sunday, law enforcement officials said the man killed was armed with a stolen handgun loaded with 23 rounds of ammunition. Police said the gun was "taken in a burglary in Waukesha in March of this year."

The second male suspect, also 23, has been taken into custody, Jessup said.

Authorities did not immediately release the race or identity of the man shot by police. Police reported that the man has a "lengthy" arrest record, but did not say what led to the traffic stop.

Several hours after the deadly shooting, crowds of protesters smashed windows and torched a squad car and several businesses.

A gas station was set on fire, but as Mayor Tom Barrett told reporters, "the firefighters did not go immediately to the gas station, because gun shots throughout this entire period were being fired in this area."

Police estimated that at least 200 people had gathered and gunshots were heard throughout the evening. One officer was injured by a thrown brick.

In a news conference just after midnight Sunday, Barrett said the unrest seemed to be dissipating. At 12:20 a.m., police tweeted that they were restoring order to the area and were reducing deployments. He says city leaders are promising a full investigation into the shooting.

"Our police officers are doing everything they can to restore order," Mayor Barrett said, but implored the public to help restore calm.

The relationship between police and minority communities in Milwaukee has been "tense," Cheryl said "especially since a couple of years ago, a young man, Dontre Hamilton was shot by a white police officer 14 times." Here's more from Cheryl:

"That spurred massive protests that went on for months here, and now you have this shooting as well. And it's just been a rough time here, in the past few days there have been at least 5 people dying in shootings over a 9 hour stretch, and now this police shooting.

"And in this instance though, Milwaukee's mayor says he knows the neighborhood, he knows the residents want order, police at the press conference said they didn't think the protesters involved in the melee here were from the community. The mayor says there will be a strong police presence, and that this is not the Milwaukee he wants the country to see – but he wanted to make it plain what actually happened."

As Cheryl reported, the mayor will meet Sunday with "community leaders and religious leaders to try to iron out everything that's been happening here and try to control some of the frustration, or address some of the frustration that the people have here."

This is a breaking news story. As often happens in situations like these, some information reported early may turn out to be inaccurate. We'll move quickly to correct the record and we'll only point to the best information we have at the time.

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In one Milwaukee neighborhood, people are boarding up broken windows, and others have come out to survey the damage after last night's protests. Demonstrators turned violent in the aftermath of a police-involved shooting of a suspect that police say was armed. NPR's Cheryl Corley is in Milwaukee and joins us now. Cheryl, the shooting happened yesterday afternoon during a traffic stop, and later an already tense situation exploded. What are people talking about as they come out today?

CHERYL CORLEY, BYLINE: You know, one woman told me that what she saw as she walked through the neighborhood was a whole lot of hopelessness. But literally what you see are some devastated buildings. Crews today by midmorning were boarding up busted windows of a bank. There is a beauty supply store that had been burned, an auto parts store. And so people were just coming out to see, but they were also coming out with garbage bags to clean up some of the areas. There were about a hundred people at a gas station that had really been decimated by fire along with several cars. So those folks came to pick up what they could, and they also called for peace.

NATE HAMILTON: Ain't nobody get hurt in these burning buildings last night because of the graces of God. Ain't nobody get hit by one of them bullets because of the graces of God.

CORLEY: And that's Nate Hamilton. His brother was actually shot and killed by police two years ago, Dontre Hamilton. And that death really caused massive protests in Milwaukee for months and in other places throughout the country.

MARTIN: So it's a city that's seen this kind of unrest before. Milwaukee's mayor, Tom Barrett, came out last night in this press conference late around midnight and said he wanted there to be a strong police presence around that part of the city today, and said he's going to be meeting with community leaders today. How's that playing out?

CORLEY: Well, you know, there's likely going to be some private meetings at first. No formal announcement has been made yet about a gathering. But at the prayer vigil that was held near that gas station, the Coalition of Justice and ministers said they were ready to work with people. And during a press conference that the mayor had held last night - one of the community members who will be joining - talking to folks is Milwaukee City Councilman Ashanti Hamilton, and he said that he's going to push for information about the shooting, saying he understands the frustration that people might have.


ASHANTI HAMILTON: So please allow the process to work, allow the investigation to work, and the information will be shared with the public.

MARTIN: And just briefly, Cheryl, any new details about the investigation?

CORLEY: Not too much at this point. We know that the police are telling us that the gunman was armed, that he was carrying a stolen semi-automatic handgun loaded with 23 rounds of ammunition. That's what we know. We don't know much about the suspect. We expect to hear more once the investigation - once more details are released about the investigation.

MARTIN: NPR's Cheryl Corley in Milwaukee. Thanks so much, Cheryl.

CORLEY: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.