Milwaukee leaders hold summit in response to recent tragedies, 'systemic' domestic violence

MILWAUKEE -- Some of the area's most influential leaders said enough is enough when it comes to domestic violence.

Domestic Violence Summit

The Milwaukee Police Department called a meeting Wednesday, Feb. 19 a "domestic violence summit." They said it was already planned before the tragic cases that the area has had in the past two weeks.

"I think when you have two babies and a mom that were murdered, you have a woman set on fire in less than two weeks, that's a crisis to me," said Carmen Pitre of Sojourner Family Peace Center.

It is a crisis that has some of Milwaukee's most influential leaders acknowledging that they have to work to do.

Antonia Vann

"In one instance, putting their money where their mouth is," Antonia Vann of The Asha Project said.

On Wednesday, nearly 35 leaders met to find solutions to a deadly domestic violence problem.

"This is not something that just happened overnight," Jeanette Kowalik, Milwaukee's commissioner of health, said.

Savannah Bailey is still fighting to live after she was lit on fire last week. Prosecutors charged the man who, her family said, she was trying to end a relationship with.

Savannah Bailey

Amarah Banks, Zaniya Ivery, Camaria Banks

On Sunday, Feb. 16, Amarah Banks -- who went by the name Jerica -- and her two children Camaria and Zaniya were found dead after an Amber Alert. A man close to them -- Arzel Ivery -- has been charged in their deaths.

Carmen Pitre

Police said Banks' neighbor called 911 after hearing a woman screaming and being abused. Milwaukee police have not publicly said if officers even responded that night.

"He needs to answer for why his system did or didn't drop the ball on that call," Pitre said. "What I will say is the system is designed to enhance safety, it's not foolproof."

John Chisolm

"That's a troubling thing that's going to have to be looked at very closely," said Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisolm. "In the context of where that case is right now, that's going to have to come out in the course of the trial itself."

Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales did not address the call in his brief interviews with the media, but several leaders reiterated that no one agency is accountable.

Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales

"It's not warranted to put it on one organization's shoulders saying you bear the entire problem. It's a systemic problem," said Chief Morales. "We all have to come together."

In 2019, 20% of the homicides in Milwaukee were domestic violence-related. Chief Morales initially scheduled the Feb. 19 meeting weeks ago for that reason but said that the past week's tragedies are a reminder of how real the problem is.

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