Milwaukee protests: two injured as tensions flare over police shooting

One person shot and officer taken to hospital after rock thrown at patrol car following shooting of Sylville Smith

Tension flared again in Milwaukee on Sunday night, with one person shot and a police officer injured in the area where the fatal shooting of a suspect by an officer had sparked rioting, prompting Wisconsins governor to activate the national guard.

Police violence against African Americans has set off intermittent, sometimes violent protests in the past two years, igniting a national debate over race and policing and giving rise to the Black Lives Matter movement.

After peaceful vigils by small groups of demonstrators earlier, Milwaukee police said on Sunday night they had rescued the victim of one shooting, who was taken to hospital. It was not known whether the injured person was a protester.

One police officer was taken to hospital after a rock smashed a patrol car windshield, the MPD said.

Police said they began attempting to disperse crowds after shots were fired and objects including rocks and bottles were thrown by some protesters. Several arrests were reported.

About 20 police in riot gear faced more than 100 protesters in a tense standoff that continued into the early hours, punctuated by sporadic reports of gunfire.

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A sign and candle are seen at the location where Sylville Smith was shot and killed by Milwaukee police. Photograph: Jeffrey Phelps/AP

Despite the violence, police said the national guard had not been called in, as authorities worked to restore order.

The Wisconsin governor, Scott Walker, took the precaution of activating the national guard in case more violence broke out over the death of Sylville Smith, 23, who was shot while trying to flee from an officer who had stopped his car.

Chief Edward Flynn said on Sunday he had viewed video from the officers body camera and it showed Smith had turned towards him with a gun in his hand after a traffic stop.

The Sherman Park neighbourhood, where a heated confrontation between residents and officers in riot gear turned violent overnight, had been peaceful at dusk.

About 200 people lit candles and gathered near the spot where Smith was shot. A few officers looked on as faith and community leaders implored protesters to restrain their anger.

We are not ignorant and stupid people, a pastor told the crowd, echoing a feeling among many of the citys African Americans that they are systematically mistreated.

Every single person needs to be looked upon as human beings and not like savages and animals.

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People pray for calm outside a business in Milwaukee. Photograph: Jeffrey Phelps/AP

The previous night, shots were fired, six businesses were burned and police cars damaged before calm was restored in the area, which has a reputation for poverty and crime. Seventeen people were arrested, and four officers were injured.

At a news conference with the mayor, Tom Barrett, Flynn said the officer who fired the fatal shot was black and media reports also identified Smith as black.

He said a silent video of the incident appeared to show the officer acting within lawful bounds. He said the officer stopped Smiths vehicle because he was behaving suspiciously and then had to chase him several dozen feet on foot into an enclosed space between two houses.

He said the moment when the officer fired his weapon could not be determined because the audio was delayed.

Im looking at a silent movie that doesnt necessarily tell me everything that will come out in a thorough investigation, Flynn said. You know the fog of war. You know first reports are frequently wrong or slightly off.

I know what I saw. Based on what I saw, didnt hear, dont know what the autopsy results are going to be, he certainly appeared to be within lawful bounds, Flynn said of the officer.

The mayor said Smith did not drop the gun as ordered before he was shot.

Smith had a lengthy arrest record, Barrett said, and officials said earlier he was carrying a stolen handgun loaded with 23 rounds of ammunition when stopped.

On Sunday evening, several of Smiths sisters addressed the crowd, saying their brother did not deserve to be shot.

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Kimberly Neal, the sister of Sylville Smith. Photograph: Aaron P Bernstein/Reuters

My brother was no felon, said one of them, Kimberly Neal, 24. My brother was running for his life. He was shot in his back.

A man claiming to be Smiths brother told CBS on Sunday that police had failed to protect the community. There is a riot going on because once again the police have failed to protect us like they said they would, said the man, who identified himself as Sedan Smith. They failed to be here like they saythey are sworn in to do. As a community, we are not going to protect ourselves. We dont have anyone to protect us, so this is what you get. You get riots.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/aug/15/milwaukee-protests-two-injured-tensions-police-shooting-sylville-k-smith