Yet another police shooting sparked riots on Saturday evening, this time in the city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Protesters caused mayhem in the city, burning businesses and reportedly even throwing a brick at a police officer’s head. Perhaps less known, however, is that horrible violence also came before the shooting — a nine-hour stretch of homicides Friday night and Saturday morning killed five people.
Protesters chanted “black power!” at least 30 times as a gas station burned. Police told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that at least 200 people had gathered to protest the shooting. Three people inside the gas station escaped and got to safety despite the fire, Assistant Police Chief James Harpole said. Here’s the harrowing footage of the gas station fire:
— Tim Pool (@Timcast) August 14, 2016
The protesters occasionally pushed against a line of 20 to 30 officers, some of whom wore riot gear, Harpole recounted. When the officers got in their cars to leave, some in the crowd started smashing the windows of a squad car and another vehicle, which was set on fire. Gunshots could be heard at about 8:45 p.m., and they appeared to be fired in the air by someone in the crowd. Fires were started at local businesses: at a branch of BMO Harris Bank, at a beauty supply company, and at an O’Reilly Auto Parts store. “Hey beat up every white person!” said one protester caught on camera. “He white! Beat his sh*t!”
— Teagan✞ (@velvethammer) August 14, 2016
The crowd also turned on reporters, chasing them. One reporter was shoved to the ground and punched.
Police reported that one of their officers was hit in the head with a brick thrown through a car window. The officer went to the hospital for treatment.
MPD officer undergoing treatment at local hospital after brick thrown through squad window, striking officer in the head.
— Milwaukee Police (@MilwaukeePolice) August 14, 2016
Violence broke out after a woman who identified herself as a family member of the dead man implored people to leave the scene. “We don’t want anyone else to go to jail or get hurt,” she told the crowd.
Next Page: Details of the shooting which sparked the protest.
The shooting which sparked the riots took place Saturday afternoon. Two officers stopped two suspects in a car at about 3:30 p.m., city police officials told the Journal Sentinel. Then the suspects took off on foot. During the pursuit, a 24-year-old police officer shot and killed a 23-year-old Milwaukee resident, who police said was carrying a semiautomatic handgun.
The officer was not hurt. Milwaukee Police Assistant Chief Bill Jessup said at the scene it wasn’t immediately clear whether the suspect pointed the gun or shot at the officer. “Those additional facts will come out in the coming days,” he said.
He added that the Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation — which is required by law to take over officer-involved shooting investigations — will interview the officer.
“That officer had to make a split-second decision when the person confronted him with a handgun,” Jessup said. “This is a risk they take every day on behalf of our community.” Following the murder of five Milwaukee citizens, it makes sense that the officer would have been vigilant — although the death of a civilian in such a chase is still a tragedy.
Jessup admitted that it was unclear why the officers originally stopped the suspects. The second suspect, who was also 23 years old, was apprehended and is in custody.
Police argued that the suspect had a “lengthy arrest record” and that he was carrying a handgun taken during a burglary in March, during which 500 rounds of ammunition were also stolen.
Again, this shooting followed a very violent early weekend. It took place about one block northwest of the scene of a Friday evening homicide, and about four blocks west of a Saturday morning double homicide. “As everyone knows, this was a very, very violent 24 hours in the city of Milwaukee,” Jessup said. “Our officers are out here taking risks on behalf of the community and making split-second decisions.”
Nevertheless, Nefataria Gordon said she knew the man who had been killed by the police officer. “He was a nice good person. He was really respected. That’s why everyone came out. They’re angry.” Some at the scene of the shooting took to social media Saturday night to encourage others to participate in what Mayor Tom Barrett described as “trouble-making.”
“Our police officers are doing everything they can to restore order,” Mayor Tom Barrett told reporters on Saturday evening. “If you love your son, if you love your daughter, text them, call them, pull them by their ears. Get them home.”
Barrett said the police had “shown an amazing amount of restraint.” Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton joined him in pleading for calm, promising a full and open investigation into the shooting. “When we get information, we are going to share it with the public, please allow the process to work,” he said.