On Sunday, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker declared a state of emergency in Milwaukee County and activated the state’s National Guard in response to violent unrest that broke out in Milwaukee Saturday night following the fatal shooting of a black man by police, The Wall Street Journal reports.
“I join Milwaukee’s leaders and citizens in calling for continued peace and prayer,” said Walker in a statement. “It is also important for citizens to know that Wisconsin is the first state in the nation to have a law requiring an independent investigation anytime there is a shooting by a law enforcement officer that leads to a death.”
According to police, four officers were injured and multiple cars and businesses were set on fire after the death of 23-year-old Sylville Smith, leading to 17 arrests. At a press conference on Sunday, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said that body cam footage demonstrated “without a question” that Smith had a gun in his hand when he was killed by police. From The Washington Post:
Saturday night’s conflict began with a traffic stop about 3:30 p.m., police said. After being pulled over, two individuals fled from the car, prompting the officer — a black 24-year-old with six years of experience — to chase them, Police Chief Edward Flynn told reporters Sunday.
Flynn said the stop was made for a suspicious vehicle that turned out to be a rental car.
Before shots were fired, he said, the entire interaction lasted between 20 and 25 seconds and covered just a few dozen feet. The 23-year-old suspect — identified by police Sunday as Sylville K. Smith — ended up running to a fenced yard where he turned toward the officer with a gun in his hand before he was shot, Flynn said.
Smith died at the scene and a second 23-year-old man was taken into custody. The chief noted that there was no evidence Smith discharged his weapon.
Alderman Khalif Rainey, who represents the area were the shooting occurred, urged the city to address the underlying problems he saw as the source of the unrest before it erupted elsewhere, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.
“This entire community has sat back and witnessed how Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has become the worst place to live for African-Americans in the entire country,” said Rainey at a press conference early Sunday morning. “Now what has happened tonight may have not been right; I’m not justifying that. But no one can deny the fact that there’s problems, racial problems, here in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, that have to be closely, not examined, but rectified. Rectify this immediately. Because if you don’t, this vision of downtown, all of that, you’re one day away. You’re one day away.”