Milwaukee officials on Saturday enacted a youth curfew and added extra patrols after 21 people were injured in three separate downtown shootings near an entertainment district where thousands had gathered for an NBA playoff game.
Three people were injured in the first shooting, one in the second and 17 in what police described as an exchange of fire between two groups of people, all within a few blocks of the arena where the Milwaukee Bucks lost to the Boston Celtics in the game. 6 of the NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals. All victims are expected to survive.
“What makes people think they can just have a shooting on a public street or in an entertainment district, with the police present or not?” Assistant Police Chief Nicole Waldner asked at a midday press conference.
Mayor Cavalier Johnson said the city has imposed a downtown curfew, requiring everyone age 20 and younger to get off the streets at 11 pm Saturday and Sunday. Extra police patrols are also planned.
“We can’t have that in this city, or anywhere else in this state, or anywhere else in this country,” Johnson said.
The mayor did not cite any plans to ban downtown parties for Sunday afternoon’s 7 pm game. Although the game is in Boston, thousands of fans often gather downtown to watch on big-screen TVs in the Deer District – an entertainment area with several bars and restaurants where large crowds often gather to watch major sporting events. .
Waldner said three people were injured in the first shooting at 9:10 pm, adjacent to the Deer District. Among them, a 16-year-old girl. A man is in custody.
Bill Reinemann, a parking attendant in the parking lot adjacent to the Deer District, said he heard gunshots and then saw dozens of people fleeing.
“It felt like six to eight shots,” he said.
At 10:30 pm, one person was shot. No arrests were made, Waldner said.
Seventeen more people were injured in a shooting at 11:09 pm. Five of the wounded were armed and were among the 10 people detained, Waldner said. Police have yet to determine what led to the shooting.
“There were some groups exchanging gunfire despite the incredible amount of police presence in the center of town,” Waldner said. “District 1 officers reported bullets whizzing past their heads.”
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that broken glass, empty alcohol bottles, plain shoes and two bloodied shirts littered the streets in the aftermath of the chaos.
Jake O’Kane, 25, of Appleton, Wisconsin, attended the playoff game with his girlfriend. Then they saw the commotion of the first shooting, then they drove a few blocks away and spent a few hours in bars before deciding to take a ride on the Lyft to a restaurant.
O’Kane said they were outside waiting for a ride “then all of a sudden you hear the ‘pop, pop, pop’ behind you”.
O’Kane said he heard about 20 shots before he was able to capture 22 more on video. He estimated the gunfire was a few hundred meters from his group.
When the driver stopped less than two minutes later, “I said, bro – drive!” said O’Kane.
The Bucks said in a statement Friday night that no shootings had taken place inside the Deer District, where about 11,000 fans who were unable to enter the arena had gathered to watch the game.
Milwaukee was among several US cities that recorded record numbers of murders in 2021, most involving guns. The list also included Philadelphia, Indianapolis and others.
Experts believe that the stress and pressures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to the violence. Johnson blamed easy access to weapons.
“A central part of the problem is the fact that individuals easily get their hands on guns,” Johnson said. “This is not strictly a Milwaukee issue. Across the country, we have seen an increase in shootings, both fatal and non-fatal.”
Of the 193 Milwaukee murders in 2021, 180 were by firearms. Another 873 people were injured in shootings, according to police data.
This year, the pace is even worse. Milwaukee has now recorded 77 deaths, a 40% increase over the same period in 2021. The number of non-fatal shootings this year is 264, two fewer than in the same period last year.
O’Kane said he worries about the direction Milwaukee is taking.
“Do we go to another game again if we win? Yeah, I’m still going to end up going to Bucks games. But are we going to party outside later? Hell no, no way.”