Downtown Milwaukee shootings; community organizers speak out

Nearly two dozen people were shot in a roughly two-hour span Friday night – 17 of them in one of three downtown Milwaukee incidents.

Eleven people have now been arrested in connection to two of those three shootings that followed the Milwaukee Bucks' playoff game. Twenty-one people were injured, some of whom were among those arrested. 

Police said they know there are more people responsible for what unfolded, and community organizers and violence prevention groups demand that there be a shift – that a night like Friday cannot happen ever gain.

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"People hear ‘Milwaukee’ and get filled with pity. It’s sad because ya’ll really made me hate this city," said Janiya Williams.

In the shadow of Fiserv Forum, several dozen people Saturday demanded a stop to the violence.

Community organizers and violence prevention groups gather outside Fiserv Forum to speak out against downtown shootings

"We need resources, and we need love," Rev. Cecil Lacy with Mount Calvary Church said – to combat poverty, petty arguments and cycles of trauma.

"Violence is not the answer to whatever it is that you’re going through," said Ray Mendoza, a supervisor with 414Life.

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Thousands in and around the Deer District were sent running as Friday's game ended. Three people were shot. One person of interest was taken into custody, and a gun was recovered.

A little more than an hour later, across the river, one person was shot and wounded near Water and Juneau. Police said no one is in custody in connection to that shooting.

Scene after shooting outside Deer District on Friday, May 13.

And just 40 minutes after that, police said a confrontation between two groups of people near that same intersection led to a shootout with thousands of people around. Seventeen people were wounded. Ten people were arrested, and 10 guns were recovered.

"There is this lack of consciousness that is really hard to police right now. It is not only a police problem, it is a community problem," said MPD Assistant Chief Nicole Waldner.

"If they're willing to do that in a crowd of thousands of people, downtown, with police all around, they're going to go in your neighborhoods and do the same thing," Mayor Cavalier Johnson said.

Shooting scene near Water and Juneau, Milwaukee

In all, 21 were wounded downtown Friday. They are all expected to be OK. But elsewhere in Milwaukee, seven others were shot Friday – and three of them died, including two men at the same location hours apart.

"It’s a systematic issue. We have to shift the culture," said Bria Grant, a Crime Stoppers board member. "People are going free, to continue to offend, and somebody knows something."

Those who gathered Saturday conveyed that means speaking up about who is responsible is not snitching, or the trauma will continue.

Community organizers and violence prevention groups gather outside Fiserv Forum to speak out against downtown shootings

"This is not something we can accept and move on to the next day if that record will be broken one day," community organizer Vaun Mayes said.

Police said they are still searching for others who were involved in the Friday night downtown shootings. Anyone with information is asked to call the Milwaukee Police Department at 414-935-7360; to remain anonymous, call Crime Stoppers at 414-224-TIPS or use the P3 tips app.

Law enforcement plan to step up their visibility downtown through the weekend. The same thing was done last spring and summer when there were a number of shootings in the area – including at Water and Juneau – the night the Bucks won the NBA championship.