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Governor Says Wisconsin National Guard To Help Milwaukee Authorities

Protests Erupt After Police Officer Shot Man

By
Chuck Quirmbach/WPR

Gov. Scott Walker said Sunday afternoon that Wisconsin National Guard would be ready to assist local authorities after violence erupted in a north Milwaukee neighborhood overnight following a police officer shot a man earlier this weekend.

Violence broke out on the north side of Milwaukee late Saturday night in the hours after a police officer shot and killed a man they say fled a traffic stop and was armed with a handgun. Hundreds of people later protested the shooting and at least four businesses in the neighborhood were burned. Protesters skirmished with police officers over several hours and the unrest didn’t subside until after midnight when city leaders called for calm.

After appearing at a rally in support of law enforcement officers in Glendale on Sunday, Walker said he activated 125 Wisconsin National Guard to be stationed in the Milwaukee area on Sunday night in the event that the Milwaukee County sheriff or the city’s police department feel the need to call for additional assistance.

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“My hope and intention is that things have cooled down,” he said. “Hopefully, a lot of people went to church today and people got the message out that this is not a reflection of Wisconsin or Milwaukee or that neighborhood.”

But, he said it’s important to have the National Guard available and ready “if requested locally to help a system to make sure that after a long night and early morning of fatigue that we make sure not only our law enforcement is safe, but that those neighborhoods are safe is vitally, vitally important.”

The governor spoke at a Support Blue event, which was held in an effort to thank law enforcement officials. Organizers say the event was planned well the before the riots that happened in the city on Saturday night.

Walker said he won’t speculate on what cause the violence.

“Again, I’m just going to comment on the specifics in terms of long-term, systemic issues out there that’s something that we’ll have to address separately and we’ll have to work with the city,” he said.

Walker said they will have to work with other social service agencies to figure out what led to the violence of Saturday night.

He said he wanted to make sure law enforcement officials had support as quickly as possible.

“My sense is that in states where the governor waited too long that it escalates. Our hope is that it would de-escalate here, but if again — God forbid — that it got continued, we want to make sure we have the resources that help local law enforcement,” he said.

The governor said Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke requested the National Guard to help curb the violence. He said he hopes they won’t immediately be placed on the streets, but they are here if needed.

Earlier, Clarke had said he asked for help from the National Guard. He said a repeat of the previous night’s violence on the city’s north side can’t be allowed. He said he had consulted with Walker.

Woman Identifies Man Who Was Shot

A woman has identified her 23-year-old son as the man fatally shot by Milwaukee police.

Mildred Haynes told The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that her son, Sylville Smith, was killed Saturday in a police shooting that triggered explosive protests on the city’s north side.

Haynes said Smith, who was black, had a 2-year-old son.

Police say Smith fled during a traffic stop and was armed. It’s unclear whether he pointed a gun at officers.

The Journal Sentinel reported Smith was charged last year in a shooting and was later charged with pressuring the victim to withdraw testimony that identified him as the gunman. Both felony charges were later dropped for reasons that are unclear.

A Milwaukee police spokesman didn’t immediately respond to messages seeking confirmation of Smith as the suspect.

Community Group Asks For Calm After Violence.

A community group in Milwaukee was calling for healing on Sunday.

On Sunday, Nathaniel Hamilton, of the Coalition for Justice, led a prayer circle of about 100 people and called for an end to violence.

“It just puts more hurt on a city, on a community and on the people, and we don’t need to continue to do that,” he said.

But Hamilton, whose brother Dontre was shot to death by police two years ago, also called for more accountability for the Milwaukee Police Department.

Community volunteers stepped forward on Sunday and cleaned up after the protests. Two to three dozen people are sweeping and picking up debris on Sunday morning around a BP gas station that was burned and largely destroyed near the intersection at the center of the violence on Saturday night.

Darlene Rose, who is 31, said on Sunday that she understands the anger that sparked the protests but that violence won’t solve anything.

Parkhar Singh, the owner of the burned BP gas station, has blamed outsiders for the violence that destroyed his business. The station was set afire as protesters skirmished with police, and firefighters couldn’t approach it because of gunshots.

Singh said Sunday that the neighborhood is usually peaceful, and he believes the trouble was caused by outsiders. He said he has owned stations in the area for 36 years and has never had trouble. He isn’t sure he’ll rebuild.

Pastor Blames Milwaukee Violence On Lack Of Jobs

A Milwaukee pastor says the lack of jobs and economic opportunities for black residents are to blame for violent protests that rocked the city following a police shooting.

The Rev. Richard Bush was surveying a burned-out gas station on Milwaukee’s predominantly black north side on Sunday morning.

Bush leads the nearby Pentecostal Church of God in Christ. He said the city must put more money into the north side because residents there “don’t have nothing to do but destroy stuff.”

Protests Occurred After Shooting

The unrest broke out hours after an officer shot a 23-year-old man who police say fled a traffic stop with another suspect. Police said the man was armed, but it wasn’t clear if he pointed a gun at or shot at the officer. Authorities said the man was shot in the chest and arm.

Capt. Mark Stanmeyer said the handgun was determined to be stolen.

Police said the suspect had a lengthy arrest record.

The 24-year-old officer who shot the man has been placed on administrative duty during the investigation. The officer’s name wasn’t immediately released. The officer has been with the Milwaukee department six years, three as an officer.

The race of the officer havsn’t been released.

During Violence, Crowd, Police Faced Off

Smoke could be seen billowing from the BMO Harris branch a few blocks away from the intersection where about 100 protesters skirmished with police on Saturday evening. It was seen burning following a BP gas station, an O’Reilly Auto Parts store and a beauty supply store. Footage from a news helicopter also appeared to show a small grocery store had been looted.

At around 2:20 a.m., the Milwaukee Police Department tweeted that order was being restored in the Sherman Park neighborhood and that officer deployments were being reduced.

Earlier in the evening, police reported in a tweet that they had a large presence as they tried to disperse a crowd. They said some in the crowd had broken the windows of an unoccupied squad car and set another police car on fire.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported shots were heard fired from within the crowd.

Police said three people were arrested, and one officer was hurt by a brick thrown into a squad car.

Local Officials Asked For Calm

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Common Council members and police officials briefed media about the violence around midnight.

Barrett said the neighborhood was calming down and that the shooting will be investigated by the state. Barrett also said the officer was wearing a body camera.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Alderman Khalif Rainey spoke at the end of the news conference, saying the neighborhood has become a “powder keg” this summer and called Saturday’s unrest a “warning cry.” According to the Journal Sentinel, Rainey said the city must address long-standing inequalities that have made Milwaukee the worst place to live as an African-American.

The shooting by police came after five people were killed by gunfire Friday and Saturday in Milwaukee. Three of those homicides took place within a few blocks of the incident.

Obama Briefed On Milwaukee Violence

White House officials said on Sunday that President Barack Obama has been briefed on the outbreak of violence in Milwaukee.

Spokeswoman Jen Friedman said Obama was updated Sunday by senior adviser Valerie Jarrett. Jarrett briefed the president after speaking with Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and offering federal support for local authorities. Friedman said Obama asked to be alerted to any new developments.

Obama is opening a second week of vacation on the Massachusetts island of Martha’s Vineyard.

Stay tuned to Wisconsin Public Radio and WPR.org for continuing coverage.

Editor’s Note: Chuck Quirmbach, Kyla Calvert Mason, David Hyland and Ross Terrell contributed to this report.

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