Police Shooting Victim To Be Buried Friday As Tensions Simmer In Milwaukee

Aug 26, 2016
Originally published on August 26, 2016 9:16 am
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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And later today, a funeral in Milwaukee will serve as a reminder of the anger sparked by the shooting of a young African-American man, Sylville Smith. The Reverend Jesse Jackson will deliver the eulogy for Smith, killed two weeks ago while fleeing a police officer who is also black. There were riots in one Milwaukee neighborhood. And some are warning that anger continues to smolder. LaToya Dennis of WUWM reports.

LATOYA DENNIS, BYLINE: In Milwaukee's Sherman Park neighborhood, there are lots of reminders of what happened here on August 13. Burned-out cars still sit in the parking lot of the BP gas station that was torched. And a couple of blocks away, red and blue balloons are tied to a tree as a memorial to Smith. Jay Holmes has lived in the neighborhood his entire life, and he says the frustration remains.

JAY HOLMES: That was not a riot. That was a neighborhood incident. The next one is going to be a riot.

DENNIS: Holmes took to the streets that night and says the unrest was about much more than the shooting.

HOLMES: We're not going to sit here, starve. We're not going to sit here and have higher rates of cancer and obesity. And we're not going to sit here and be broke for anybody any more.

DENNIS: Martha De La Rosa is executive director of Wisconsin Jobs Now, which advocates for a substantially higher minimum wage. She says it's time for investigators to release the body camera video.

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MARTHA DE LA ROSA: Without transparency and the release of the body cam video, this community cannot fully work to heal and move forward in a positive way.

DENNIS: But Wisconsin's attorney general, Brad Schimel, says releasing the video at this point could create a problem. He argues that it might harm the investigation.

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BRAD SCHIMEL: As we are searching for the truth, it is sometimes necessary to confront witnesses with information they didn't know or they didn't know we knew.

DENNIS: Schimel also says the video alone won't answer all of the questions people here have. He says it has to be viewed in context with the other information, like eyewitness accounts. And he says the video will not be released until the Milwaukee County DA decides whether to charge the officer. For Jay Holmes, it doesn't really matter all that much what's on the video. He says two weeks ago, he and others didn't even flinch in the face of police in riot gear and gunfire from the crowd.

HOLMES: When you have a person standing there, going to do their thing whether they get shot or not, that's a very dangerous point for America to be at.

DENNIS: Holmes and others warn that if some in this neighborhood continue to feel that they're left out and police are not held accountable, the reaction will be even stronger. For NPR News, I'm LaToya Dennis in Milwaukee. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.