Civil unrest erupted in Milwaukee Saturday night after a 23-year-old Black man was fatally shot by police.
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 23-year-old Sylville K. Smith tried to flee a traffic stop around 3:30 p.m. Saturday when an unidentified police officer confronted him. Smith was reportedly armed and ordered to drop his weapon — which he did not. The officer fired his gun shorty afterward, killing the Milwaukee man.
Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn has since confirmed that the officer is African-American.
“We are concerned for his safety,” Flynn said of the officer, who remains unnamed. “He has been staying with relatives out of town.”
According to Flynn, the officer’s body camera captured the deadly ordeal and showed that the series of events leading up to Smith’s shooting took about 20 to 25 seconds. The police chief also asserted that the footage shows Smith with a gun.
“The individual was armed,” Flynn said. “The individual did turn toward the officer with the firearm in his hand. You can’t tell when the officer discharges his firearm.”
There’s no word on when the body cam footage will be released to the public, but Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett assured the public that transparency is of the utmost importance.
Violence ensued following the deadly shooting, as several businesses in the Sherman Park neighborhood were torched, cars overturned and set ablaze, and gunfire erupted, the Journal Sentinel reports. Gov. Scott Walker later called in the Wisconsin National Guard to assist the Milwaukee Police Department in restoring peace to the area.
The turmoil eventually subdued, as community members and police worked to clean up the city early Sunday morning. But the peace didn’t last very long; another night of violence ensued and shots were reportedly fired during a protest that evening.
According to ABC News, officers used an armored vehicle to retrieve an injured victim and rush him/her to a local hospital. This all occurred as police worked to disperse a crowd of roughly 150 people who had gathered near the intersection where Smith was shot. Protesters then reportedly began throwing bottles and rocks at officers, resulting in additional arrests.
Vivid mages of the unrest flooded social media over the weekend, prompting the hashtag #MilwaukeeUnrest to spread like wild fire. While some understood the frustration of losing yet another Black man to the hands of police, others denounced the senseless violence. However, the unrest also served as a golden opportunity for online racists to crawl out the wood works and offer their unsolicited commentary.
— ScottInSC (@ScottInSC) August 15, 2016
#MilwaukeeUnrest black cop shoots armed suspect. Yet, it's white peoples fault. Makes perfect sense.
— Brian Sho'nuff (@NYJetsFan74) August 15, 2016
#MilwaukeeUnrest If you're white be very careful in Milwaukee. I suggest you get your concealed carry permit. You're being targeted
— Bill hicks (@Billhic02785574) August 15, 2016
— ALWAYS TRUMP! (@Always_Trump) August 15, 2016
I guess blacks burning the local gas station doesnt really matter when most dont need to get to work anyway… #MilwaukeeUnrest
— Russian Hacker (@hitman0321) August 15, 2016
Black peoples cause their own problems. They're the real racists #MilwaukeeUnrest
— mel (@melly4134) August 15, 2016
— I yam wot I yam (@yup_u_b_nidiot) August 15, 2016
Damn pavement apes protesting a damn thug who got what he deserved no brains in any of them #MilwaukeeUnrest
— Dale Skinner (@DaleSkinner15) August 15, 2016
The violence and rising tensions between police and communities of color come as no surprise to some. Milwaukee was plagued by protests and calls for police reform after an officer shot and killed Dontre Hamilton, a mentally ill Black man, back in 2014, ABC News reports. Nearly 40 percent of Milwaukee’s population is also African-American.
Since the shooting, Smith’s sister, Kimberly Neal, said the family is seeking to press charges against the officer who shot her brother.