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Sylville Smith’s Family Holds Milwaukee Picnic For Peace

Civil Lawsuit Continues Over Officer-Involved Shooting 1 Year Ago This Month

Sherman Park picnic
Chuck Quirmbach/WPR

A year after a Milwaukee police officer shot Sylville Smith to death in Milwaukee’s Sherman Park neighborhood, his family and friends offered a positive message to the city, while acknowledging their ongoing grief: be peaceful.

On Sunday, Smith’s relatives organized a picnic in Sherman Park that included free food and school supplies for kids. Smith’s aunt, Dafney Haynes, said she misses her nephew, but the family wants to promote a message of peace.

“I just hope everything gets better, people just get their mind right, do right. You can’t keep doing all this bad stuff and think something good’s going to happen. Like, no, ” Haynes said, while her eyes filled with tears.

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Smith was shot and killed Aug. 13, 2016 by former Milwaukee police officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown. The killing set off two nights of unrest in the city’s north side neighborhood.

In June, the Smith family filed a federal civil lawsuit against the city of Milwaukee after a jury ruled Heaggan-Brown was not guilty of first-degree reckless homicide. Heaggan-Brown remains in jail on an unrelated case alleging he drugged and sexually assaulted a man the day after shooting Smith. Heaggan-Brown was fired in October.

Markasa Tucker, co-founder of the group U-BLAC, speaks to picnic-goers Sunday. Chuck Quirmbach/WPR

Markasa Tucker, co-founder of the group U-BLAC (Uplifting Black Liberation and Community), helped organize Sunday’s event.

She said there hasn’t been a repeat of last year’s protests that followed the shooting of Smith, but said the city needs to improve the quality of life in Sherman Park. Tucker wants to see a crime prevention plan that’s been delayed.

“We’re really concerned about what that’s going to look like, what the city budget’s going to look like, where the money is going to be flowing, and where it’s not going to be flowing,” Tucker said.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett has been promising a crime reduction plan for months. It’s now slated to come out in September. Meanwhile, Barrett has been promoting re-development projects in Sherman Park he says will improve housing and add jobs.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to state Markasa Tucker is co-founder of the group U-BLAC (Uplifting Black Liberation and Community).

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