Milwaukee mayor, police chief: Body cam supports shooting that started riots

After rioting in the streets and a call-out of the National Guard, the shooting of a suspect in Milwaukee appears to have been justified after all. Both the police chief and the mayor announced yesterday that body-cam video shows that Sylville Smith was armed, and did not follow instructions to drop it. Mayor Tom Barrett told the media that he’d seen a still photo from the video which “demonstrates without question that he had a gun in his hand.” That gun had 23 rounds in it, by the way:

Fox’s Rich Edson picked up the story this morning:

Barrett noted his pride in the city’s first responders, and claimed that they had come under actual gunfire in the rioting that erupted in the aftermath, but had not returned fire — not one shot. Four police officers got injured in the riots, none directly by bullets, and none seriously, although one got concussed by concrete dropped on her head. The bullets were aimed at the District 7 police station, but even those missed their target.

Six businesses paid a steep price for the riots, however:

Six businesses were set on fire, with three of them destroyed and three suffering heavy damage during Saturday night’s violence, Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn said at a news conference Sunday afternoon.

The BP gas station and O’Reilly Auto Parts store, along with a liquor store at N. 22nd St. and W. Fond du Lac Ave., were destroyed, Flynn said. Jet Beauty Supply, a BMO Harris Bank branch and a liquor store at 21st and Hopkins were damaged, he said.

Managers of the O’Reilly Auto Parts store on W. Fond Du Lac Ave., which has about 10 employees, were sending them to work at other stores in the area Sunday in an effort to keep them from losing hours and pay.

“It’s a shame that businesses have to be burned down,” said Rebeca Childress, an assistant manager at the store. “People have lives, they have bills to pay. Now people are out of their businesses, out of their jobs.”

This is a demonstration of the stupidity of rioting. It’s not a way to make injustice an issue; it perpetuates injustice, usually by imposing it on the very same people that the alleged injustice impacts most. The neighborhood where this took place was already on a “downward spiral,” which this will almost surely accelerate. Those businesses may not return, which would leave these neighborhoods more impoverished and with less leverage to negotiate the kind of change they seek. That’s especially true when the event that acts as a catalyst for the violence turns out to be a legitimate exercise of law enforcement — as appears to be the case with Sylville Smith.

What comes next? Barrett says that the state of Wisconsin will run the investigation into the shooting, and that they have jurisdiction over its release. If so, expect it to come out soon, as Governor Scott Walker yesterday called for its publication:

If this doesn’t calm the waters, Barrett warned that curfews and the National Guard will be coming next. Today, they imposed the curfews:

If releasing the video will calm the situation, then Wisconsin’s investigators should expedite that process.

Update: Originally, the headline said “vindicates,” but my good friend Gabriel Malor got an eye twitch on it — and rightfully so. Only an investigation will vindicate the shooting; “supports” is a more accurate term, I believe.