At least two people were injured in Milwaukee early Monday amid protests that took place in the wake of the fatal shooting of an armed African-American man, according to local authorities. Among those injured in the protests were a police officer and a civilian, who was taken to a hospital after being shot. It remains unknown whether the person who was shot was a protestor or a bystander.
The unrest followed the shooting of Sylville Smith, 23, who was stopped by a pair of police officers in a car alongside another person on Saturday afternoon. Smith, who fled the car, was shot by police after refusing to drop the handgun he was holding, according Milwaukee Mayor Barrett.
Smith later died at the scene. The police officer, meanwhile, was hospitalized after a patrol car windshield was smashed with a rock, according to the Milwaukee Police Department. The officer involved in the shooting was also African-American and is fearful for his safety, officials said.
While most protested peacefully, other turned to violent means of demonstration, with businesses in the city’s north side being torched and a total of four officers sustaining injuries, according to Barrett.
To combat the destruction, a group of around 100 protesters gathered, gathered near a BP gas station that had been torched during the protests, with local leaders leading a prayer circle throughout Sunday.
The flurry of activity has prompted Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker to activate the National Guard, which will not be used unless authorized by the city’s police chief, Edward Flynn, according to Barrett.
Barrett pleaded with protesters to disperse and for the loved ones of the protesters to call them home.
“If you love your son, if you love your daughter, text them, call them, pull them by the ears and get them home. Get them home right now before more damage is done,” he said.
“I know this neighborhood very, very well. And there are a lot of really really good people who live in this area -- in the Sherman Park area, who can’t stand this violence.”
According to Khalif Rainey, a city alderman, Milwaukee has been ripe for racial tension for the past several months.
“What happened tonight may not have been right and I am not justifying that but no one can deny the fact that there are problems, racial problems in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, that need to be rectified,” he said. “This community of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has become the worst place to live for African-Americans in the entire country.”
Court records show Smith had a lengty list of encoutners with charges ranging from felony theft and possession of marijuana to reckless endagerment and witness intimidation, but in each of the cases the charges were subsequently dropped.
The exception would be July of 2014, when Smith was charged with carrying a concealed weapon -- a misdemeanor charge. He pleaded guilty in November, and was sentenced to serve one day in jail.
In an emotional conversation with local media Patrick Smith, the victims father blamed himself, in part, for his son's demise.
"When they see the wrong role model, this is what you get," he said. "I had to blame myself for a lot of things too because your hero is your dad and I played a very big part in my family’s role model for my kids. Being on the street, doing things of the street life: Entertaining, drug dealing and pimping and they’re looking at their dad like 'he’s doing all these things.' I got out of jail two months ago, but I’ve been going back and forth in jail for years and they see those things so I’d like to apologize to my kids because this is the role model they look up to."