Sylville Smith, Man Whose Death Sparked Unrest in Milwaukee, Laid to Rest

Aug 26, 2016

Sylville Smith, the African American man killed by a black police officer two weeks ago was laid to rest Friday.

Rev. Jesse Jackson traveled to Milwaukee to give the eulogy. Jackson said that while this funeral could not have been prevented, maybe others will. The only way that will happen, he said, is if people are given not only hope, but jobs.

“They need art for their spirits, education for their minds, and they need jobs. There’s commitment involved to this community, look at vacant lots, those vacant lots need landscapers. Those houses should be demolished and torn down and those are jobs," Jackson said. "We need not more policemen, we need the secretary of HUD and labor and education and health care to break up this disparity, racial disparity in this city, and lend itself to a new kind of peace and harmony."

Mourners wait outside of Christian Fellowship church on Friday before the start of visitation
Credit LaToya Dennis

Smith was shot twice while fleeing a traffic stop on foot. Police say he was armed with a semi-automatic gun and turned toward the officer with it. His death sparked two days of unrest in Milwaukee where businesses were burned and police were attacked.

Several people are now facing criminal charges. David Owens, the family’s lawyer, said that while today Smith’s life should be celebrated, it’s hard because the family still has questions.

“The family doesn’t know what happened or why it happened or how it happened. So imagine all of that stuff." Owens said. "Burying a family member without even knowing how or why they died. That is something that is a tremendous difficulty in this situation. Sure, there’s a criminal process, but there’s a human process. And so as this goes on, the grief will continue for a longer period of time because there’s a family in the dark."

Wisconsin’s Attorney General has said the video will not be released until the investigation is finished and the Milwaukee County District Attorney has decided whether to criminally charge the officer.

A peace celebration is scheduled from 10 am to 10 pm in Sherman Park on Saturday.