Wisconsin Governor Activates National Guard to Keep Peace in Milwaukee Following Night of Unrest

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Gov. Scott Walker activated the National Guard on Sunday to assist the Milwaukee Police Department upon request in the aftermath of violence in Milwaukee’s Sherman Park neighborhood after a fatal police shooting.

Walker said he activated the guard after a request from Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. and conferring with Mayor Tom Barett and Major Gen. Donald Dunbar.

The development came as a sense of calm and order returned to the neighborhood Sunday morning after a night when businesses were torched, cars overturned and set ablaze and gunfire erupted following the fatal police shooting.

By mid-morning Sunday, the area near N. Sherman Blvd. and W. Burleigh St.  was clogged with onlookers, in cars and on foot, but the area soon swelled with people showing up to clean up trash from the unrest the night before.

Shortly after 7 a.m. CST, people were showing up at the scene to pitch in on the cleanup, some even crossed the police tape into the gas station, which was not being guarded by police, and started picking up trash. Officers ushered them out and the cleanup continued near the station and in the surrounding blocks.

Mark Hale, 52, who works third-shift at the Hilton hotel downtown, said he was driving home and stopped by on his own to pick up trash.

“Instead of being part of the problem, I wanted to be part of the solution,” he said. “I figured if I started picking up trash, other people might do the same.”

Hale, who is black and has lived in the city his whole life, said he attributed the fires at businesses and squad cars to “a lot of idiots who don’t have jobs and don’t want to have jobs.”

Hale said he has four grown children, three of whom are in training or studying to be in law enforcement.

“Point blank, I support the police,” he said, adding from what he has heard the officer who shot the suspect was justified.

In earlier statements, Milwaukee police said an officer shot and killed an armed man who was fleeing a traffic stop about 3:30 p.m. Saturday. The officer ordered the man to drop his gun and when the man did not, the officer fired, wounding the man twice, once in the chest and once in the arm, Barrett said.

At a Sunday afternoon news conference, Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn identified the man killed by the officer as Sylville K. Smith, 23. Flynn said the officer was wearing a body camera that showed Smith was armed, and that Smith turned toward the officer with the gun after being told to drop the weapon.

“I want the community to know that the individual had a gun,” Mayor Tom Barrett said at the news conference.

Barrett said 125 National Guard members had been activated, but would not be deployed unless Flynn determined they were needed.

Sources who wished to remain anonymous told The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Sunday that the police officer who fatally shot Smith on Saturday is black.

After an hours-long confrontation with officers, police reported at 10:15 p.m. that a gas station at N. Sherman Blvd. and W. Burleigh St. was set on fire. Police said firefighters could not for a time get close to the blaze because of gunshots. Later, fires were started at businesses — including a BMO Harris Bank branch, a beauty supply company and O’Reilly Auto Parts stores — according to city officials. Flynn said Sunday six businesses were set on fire.

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SOURCE: John Diedrich, Ashley Luthern, Raquel Rutledge, Maggie Angst, Annysa Johnson and Tom Kertscher
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel