News and Commentary

Milwaukee: Police Reveal Officer Is Black, Shooting Justified; Riots Continue

The violence that erupted in Milwaukee Saturday after a police officer fatally shot a black man continued Sunday night, with rioters throwing glass bottles, rocks, and bricks at officers and firing shots, resulting in one man suffering a serious gunshot injury. The riots Sunday occurred despite the police department revealing earlier that the officer involved was black and releasing more information indicating that his actions were justified.

On Sunday, Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn told reporters that the officer (who remains unnamed) was a 24-year-old African-American, who appears to have been justified in his actions. The suspect has been identified as Sylville K. Smith, a 23-year-old African-American man with a lengthy criminal record.

According to the officer’s body camera, the entire incident took between 20 to 25 seconds. At around 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Smith fled a traffic stop, holding a weapon. The officer pursued him a few dozen feet until Smith came to a fenced yard, where he turned toward the officer and appeared to raise his gun. The officer then fatally shot Smith in the chest and arm.

“I mean, there was virtually no time between the officer unhooking his seat belt, turning on his body camera, getting out of the car and immediately he was in a foot chase. That foot chase went maybe a few dozen feet before he encountered this individual in a fenced yard,” Flynn said. “The individual was armed. The individual did turn toward the officer with the firearm in his hand. You can’t tell when the officer discharges his firearm.”

Flynn said that the officer faced a credible threat and only fired after Smith refused to drop his gun, which he appeared to be “raising up” before the officer fired.

The officer is currently staying out of town with family because the department fears for his life.

“We are concerned for his safety,” said Chief Flynn. “He has been staying with relatives out of town.”

Flynn said the body camera footage would be released at the proper time. “It’s a delicate balance between what the community needs to know … and the criminal justice process,” he said.

The result of what appears to be a justified shooting is a city devastated by two nights of riots, cars and businesses set ablaze, racist violence, with rioters deliberately targeting white people, and Gov. Scott Walker forced to call in the Wisconsin National Guard.

Around 11 p.m. Sunday night, officers decked out in riot gear arrived at the Sherman Park neighborhood in an attempt to disperse the violent crowd. The rioters responded by throwing various objects at them, including bricks and rocks. One police officer was taken to the hospital after a rock was thrown through his squad car window.

At one point officers had to rescue an 18-year-old shooting victim, who was then taken to a hospital for treatment after suffering a “serious gunshot injury.” Later, yet another car was set on fire by the rioters.

Like Saturday, officers were forced to arrest several rioters who refused to disperse from the illegal “protest.” By 1:30 a.m., the situation had calmed enough that officers were able to finally withdraw from the area.

Top image (AP): Police rush a man into a vehicle after getting pelted by rocks in Milwaukee, Sunday, Aug. 14, 2016. Shots rang out during unrest after a police shooting that killed a man Saturday.

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