Milwaukee Mayor Orders Curfew for Teens

by | August 16, 2016

By Bill Glauber, Crocker Stephenson and Patrick Thomas

After two nights of violent unrest in which 11 law enforcement officers were injured and a man suffered a life-threatening gunshot injury, Milwaukee braced Monday for a 10 p.m. curfew for teens.

As darkness fell, politicians, preachers, police officers and citizens awaited to see if the peace would hold in the Sherman Park neighborhood, the scene of fires and skirmishes after Saturday's shooting death of an armed suspect by a Milwaukee police officer.

"I'm very conflicted in my emotions from anger to hurt to empathy to sadness," said Jamila Riley, who participated with scores of others in a march organized by pastors from the nearby Parklawn Assembly Church of God.

"While I don't necessarily agree with what's taking place, I understand it," Riley said.

Meanwhile, District 7 Police Station closed Monday afternoon because of unspecified threats, according to a police spokesman who would not say how many hours the station was closed. At 8 p.m. Monday, the parking lot adjacent to the station was taped off but the station was back open for business.

Milwaukee officials announced that Sherman Park would be closed at night and that teens throughout the city were subject to a 10 p.m. curfew.

"We've got a lot of young people involved," said Mayor Tom Barrett. "I want every parent, every guardian to know that there is a curfew that will be more strictly enforced tonight for teenagers. So parents, your teenagers better be home or a place off the streets."

Sherman Park was closed from 6 p.m. until 6 a.m. The nighttime closure, ordered by Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr., will continue until further notice.

"I'm calling on every resident of this great city," Barrett said. "Do not do further damage to this great neighborhood."

Alderman Khalif J. Rainey, who represents the Sherman Park neighborhood, issued a statement, saying: "I need to be perfectly clear about these two things. While the residents of Sherman Park and Milwaukee's impoverished neighborhoods have just cause for anger and frustration, absolutely nothing justifies the display of violence and incivility we've witnessed in our neighborhood these past two evenings."

He called it "foolish" to destroy businesses in a neighborhood where employment opportunities are so few.

"You can't fix the roof of a burning house," he said.

"We need to put down the bricks and put away the guns. We need to pick up some brooms and paint brushes and get to work."

Gov. Scott Walker traveled to Milwaukee on Monday to meet with 123 Wisconsin National Guard members who were sent to the city at the request of local officials, but have not been deployed to city streets. He also greeted Milwaukee officers at Police District 3 not far from Sherman Park.

Walker said the vast majority of Sherman Park residents are law-abiding people who want the best for their neighborhood.

"If you want to address poverty, if you want to address living conditions, if you want to address housing _ all those things are legitimate issues people have frustrations about. But if you've got neighborhoods where businesses are burned down, where people are afraid to live and work, it's only going to make those problems more difficult," Walker said.

Walker also said 26 more Wisconsin State Patrol troopers were shifted to Milwaukee County to allow sheriff's deputies who normally patrol highways to be on call in the Sherman Park area.

On Sunday night, seven police officers and four sheriff's deputies were injured as demonstrators, spurred by a police shooting of an armed suspect Saturday night, threw rocks, bricks and bottles. An 18-year-old man was hit by what police believe to have been random gunfire.

Fourteen arrests were made, all for disorderly conduct, police said. Three squad cars were damaged, the windows of a store were broken, a car and numerous dumpsters were set on fire.

Police Chief Edward Flynn commended officers for not firing a shot on Sunday night, despite more than 30 ShotSpotter activations.

"They successfully protected the community last night," Flynn said at a news conference, during which he reiterated his belief, based on body camera video evidence, that 23-year-old Sylville K. Smith was armed when he was shot to death by a 24-year-old police officer in a confrontation Saturday afternoon.

It will be the Wisconsin Department of Justice that decides when and how that video evidence is released to the public.

The agency's Division of Criminal Investigation is conducting an independent review of the shooting, which is required under state law whenever someone is killed by police or dies in official custody.

The department, headed by Attorney General Brad Schimel, doesn't release the videos of a shooting or death until the investigation is complete and the district attorney decides whether to issue charges in a death. Copies of the video are then given to the media along with all the other evidence collected, such as witness interviews, 911 tapes and photographs from the scene.

Schimel and his agency have been under pressure to move up the release of the video in this case. But spokesman Johnny Koremonos said that wouldn't be possible Monday.

"In recognition of the violence that has affected Milwaukee residents for the last 48 hours, DOJ is working expeditiously, and within the parameters of the law, to provide the community a transparent view of the events that took place on Aug. 13 in a timely manner. However, we are not prepared to release any of the video evidence at this time," Koremonos said.

Barrett urged the state to release the body camera footage.

"This is a flashpoint," he said.

(Meg Jones, Hannah Schwarz, Jesse Garza, Jason Stein and Maggie Angst of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel contributed to this report.)

(c)2016 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel