Milwaukee officials on Saturday imposed a youth curfew and added additional patrols after 21 people were injured in three separate shootings downtown near a recreation area where thousands 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 a shootout between two groups of people, all a few blocks from the arena as the Milwaukee Bucks lost to the Boston Celtics in the game. 6 of the semi-finals in the Eastern Conference of the NBA. All victims are expected to survive.
“What makes people think that they can shoot in a public street or in a recreational area, whether the police are present or not?” asked Assistant Chief Constable Nicole Waldner at a press conference this afternoon.
Mayor Cavalier Johnson said the city has imposed a curfew in the downtown area that requires everyone 20 years of age or younger to be off the street by 11 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Additional police patrols are also planned.
“We can’t have that in this city, nor anywhere else in this state, nor anywhere else in this country,” Johnson said.
The mayor didn’t mention any plans to ban viewing parties downtown for Game Seven on Sunday afternoon, although the game is in Boston, often thousands of fans gather downtown to watch on big TV screens in the Deer District — an entertainment district with Many bars and restaurants where large crowds often gather to watch major sporting events.
Waldner said that three people were wounded in the first shooting at 9:10 p.m. near the Deir area. Among them was a 16-year-old girl. One man is under arrest.
Bill Reinmann, a parking worker in a yard adjacent to Deer County, said he heard gunshots, then saw dozens of people fleeing.
“It was like six to eight gunshots,” he said. “It was close.”
At 10:30 p.m., one person was shot. Waldner said no one was arrested.
Waldner said 17 others were wounded in the shooting at 11:09 p.m. Five of the wounded were armed and were among the 10 people detained. Police have not yet determined the cause of the shooting.
“There were two groups who exchanged fire despite the sheer size of the police downtown,” Waldner said. “Area 1 officers reported that bullets were buzzing over their heads.”
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that broken glass, empty alcohol bottles, individual shoes, and two bloody T-shirts littered the streets in the aftermath of the chaos.
Jake Auken, 25, of Appleton, Wisconsin, attended the playoff with his girlfriend. Then, they saw the commotion from the first shooting, then went a few blocks away and spent a few hours in bars before deciding to ride the Lyft to a restaurant.
They were outside waiting for their flight, O’Ken said, “and then all of a sudden you hear pop, pop, pop” behind you. “
Oken said he heard about 20 shots before he could capture another 22 video shots. He estimated that the shooting was hundreds of meters from his range.
When the driver stopped less than two minutes later, I said, “Brother!” Oken said.
The Bucks said in a statement Friday night that no shootings occurred within the Deer District, where an estimated 11,000 fans had gathered who were unable to enter the arena to watch the game.
Milwaukee was among several US cities that saw record numbers of deaths in 2021, mostly using firearms. The list also included Philadelphia, Indianapolis, and others.
Experts believe the stress and strain caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have contributed to the violence. Johnson blamed easy access to guns.
“A central part of the problem is the fact that people easily get their hands on guns,” Johnson said. “This is not specifically a Milwaukee problem. Across the country we have seen a rise in shootings, both fatal and non-fatal.”
Of the 193 homicides in Milwaukee in 2021, 180 were from firearms. Police data said 873 people were injured in the shooting.
This year, the pace is worse. Milwaukee has already recorded 77 homicides, up 40% from the same time in 2021. The number of non-fatal shootings this year was 264, twice less than the same period last year.
O’Ken said he’s worried about the direction Milwaukee is going.
“Are we going to go to another match again, if we win? Yeah, I’m still going to the Bucks matches. But then are we going to party outside? Hell no, not a chance.”