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Milwaukee streets quieter after 2 nights of unrest

MILWAUKEE -- Police Chief Edward Flynn said at a news conference late Monday night that the city was calmer Monday evening, after a night of violence Saturday left half a dozen businesses in flames and more unrest Sunday night in the wake of the fatal police shooting of a black man.

Flynn spoke after a 10 p.m. curfew for teenagers went into effect.

Six arrests were made early Monday evening after some heated confrontations but there was no destruction of property or rioting, he said. The situation seemed to calm down after the arrests, he added, with less vehicular traffic and fewer people on the streets.

The curfew for those under age 18 appeared to work well with the aid of community leaders and parents, Mayor Tom Barrett said, adding that the curfew will remain in effect as long as necessary, according to CBS Milwaukee affiliate WDJT-TV.

Flynn also said outside groups he'd blamed for stirring up trouble Sunday night didn't appear to be in the city Monday night, WDJT reports.

The problems began Saturday afternoon when police stopped a rental car that was driving suspiciously, Flynn said. Sylville K. Smith bolted from the car with a gun, leading an officer on a short foot chase before the officer shot the 23-year-old. Police said the man was fleeing a traffic stop but released few other details.

The violence erupted later that evening.

During a news conference around midnight calling for calm, Barrett said people were gathering at the scene when he left at 5 p.m. Saturday, but they were peaceful and he thought everything was under control.

At another news conference Sunday afternoon, Flynn offered new details, revealing that the officer who opened fire was black, like Smith, and said body-camera video showed Smith had turned toward the officer and refused to drop his weapon. He also said the officer shot Smith in the chest and arm. Some people interviewed on the north side had speculated that Smith was shot in the back.

The body-camera footage has not been released. It's in the custody of the state Justice Department, which is leading the investigation into the shooting.

Undated Sylville K. Smith mugshot
Undated Sylville K. Smith mugshot Milwaukee Police

Flynn activated the department's 150-member crowd-control team on Sunday night, and Gov. Scott Walker put the National Guard on standby in case personnel were needed. Hundreds of people gathered near the scene of the shooting that evening, but remained peaceful. Most of them eventually dispersed.

Around 10:30 p.m., however, a group of perhaps 100 demonstrators began marching through the streets, eventually blocking an intersection next to a BP gas station that had burned down the night before. They threw bottles, chunks of concrete and rocks at officers. Dozens of officers arrived and forced the group down the street.

Seven officers were injured and 14 people arrested by the time it was over. An 18-year-old was shot near the intersection. Police had to use an armored vehicle to rescue him. He was taken to a hospital, but Flynn said his life was not in danger.

Smith's death was just the latest in a string of shootings involving police and black men to spark demonstrations and protests.

In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where 37-year-old Alton Sterling was fatally shot in July during a struggle with two white police officers, protests largely dissipated after three law enforcement officers were killed in a shooting attack that appeared to target police. Demonstrations also unfolded after 32-year-old Philando Castile was shot and killed in suburban St. Paul, Minnesota, during a traffic stop by a Latino police officer. Those protests dwindled in the ensuing weeks.

Last year, the state Justice Department agreed to review Milwaukee police procedures after a white officer shot Dontre Hamilton, a mentally ill black man, in a downtown park during a scuffle.

DeShawn Corprue, 31, who lives behind the burned-out BP station, said nothing that police released about Smith's death would have stopped the weekend's unrest.

"People are just so angry," he said.

Flynn blamed a Chicago chapter of the Revolutionary Communist Party for coming to town and inciting Sunday's violence.

"There is ample opportunity for second-guessing, I'm sure," Flynn said.

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