MILWAUKEE – City leaders pleaded for calm after violence erupted for several hours Saturday night on Milwaukee’s north side following a man’s fatal shooting by police, with the mayor imploring parents of anyone at the scene to “get them home right now” after at least four businesses burned and one officer was hurt.
At a news conference just after midnight, Mayor Tom Barrett said the situation appeared to be calming after a riotous scene in which as many as 100 protesters skirmished with police, torching a squad car and tossing a brick through the window of another. Police mounted at least two efforts to push the protesters out of an intersection at the heart of the violence.
The unrest began several hours after a man fleeing police after a traffic stop was shot and killed. Police said the man was armed, but it wasn’t clear whether he was pointing the gun or aiming it at officers. Barrett said the man was hit twice, in the chest and arm. Neither his race nor the officer’s was immediately released, nor were they identified.
The shooting was being investigated by the state. The officer was wearing a body camera, Barrett said.
At least three people were arrested in an uprising that Barrett said was driven by social media messages instructing people to congregate in the area.
“We have to have calm,” Barrett said at the news conference. “There are a lot of really good people who live in this neighborhood.”
Milwaukee Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton echoed Barrett’s plea for help restoring order.
“We understand the frustration people feel with the police community nationally. … We have to go through the process of finding justice, but we have to be able to restore order to these neighborhoods,” Hamilton said. “Please participate in restoring order to these neighborhoods.”
Barrett said the 23-year-old man who died was stopped by police for “suspicious activity.” Police said earlier that he was carrying a gun that had been stolen in a March burglary in suburban Waukesha.
“This stop took place because two officers … saw suspicious activity,” Barrett said. “There were 23 rounds in that gun that that officer was staring at. I want to make sure we don’t lose any police officers in this community, either.”
Police with shields and helmets moved slowly into an intersection after 11 p.m., telling a crowd of about 50 people to disperse. Some threw rocks and other debris at police, who held up their shields. They also threw objects at a business a half-block from the intersection. A nearby traffic light was bent over and bus shelters overturned.
An earlier standoff involved more than 100 people pushing against 20 to 30 officers. Officers got in their cars to leave at one point and some in the crowd started smashing a squad car’s windows. Another police car was set on fire.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that one of its reporters was shoved to the ground and punched.
The businesses that burned included a BMO Harris branch, a BP gas station, an O’Reilly Auto Parts store and a beauty supply store. Firefighters held back from the gas station blaze because of gunfire.
Police said the man who was shot had an arrest record. The 24-year-old officer who shot the man has been placed on administrative duty. The officer has been with the Milwaukee department six years, three as an officer.