Officer shoots, wounds suspect during exchange of gunfire; similar incident proved fatal 30 years ago

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- A Milwaukee police officer shot and wounded a suspect who had a handgun early Thursday morning, March 19th.

It happened around 2:30 a.m. near W. 16th and Center after two officers stopped to question the suspect about suspected drug dealing.

Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn says what happened Thursday morning is all too familiar. He says exactly 30 years ago, two officers were killed in a similar situation near 17th and Center.

"Today is a solemn day for us as we remember our fallen officers and keep their surviving families in our prayers, but today is also a day of gratitude as last night's history failed to repeat itself in the most significant way. Our officers survived the encounter," said Chief Flynn.

Chief Flynn says officers became suspicious of the suspect's behavior when they witnessed him involved in what they believed to be a hand-to-hand drug deal. One suspect quickly fled when the officers -- in uniform, in a marked Milwaukee police squad, stopped to investigate.

Chief Flynn says when one suspect took off, the second suspect reached to his waistband, produced a semi-automatic handgun, and fired at the officers.

He then ran -- first to his yard, where he again aimed his gun. Flynn says that's when the officer shot back. The officers then chased the suspect on foot to an alley in the 2700 block of N. 16th, where he struggled with the officers before he was taken into custody.

"Consistent with the pattern from 30 years ago, the suspect they arrested had an extensive criminal record," said Flynn.

Chief Flynn says it's just another reminder of what officers can face on a daily basis.

"If I’ve got a message for the public it is when officers use deadly force, it’s the most stressful moment of their career. Every officer knows when they have to use deadly force they have to make a quick decision under enormous stress and if by any chance they are judged wrong by someone, people will want to put them in jail for trying to do their job. What I’d ask from the public is their willingness to withhold judgment until facts are made. This is the third police shooting in Milwaukee this month. All three were armed suspects risking other people’s lives! That’s the danger our officers face every day. That what’s on their mind.? They know they're facing the most heavily armed society of any western democracy. Every day they know that. So I just ask the public to look upon their public servants with a base level of charity. Before you take to the streets, at the very least, wait for the facts to come out," Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn said Thursday.

The officers were not injured and the suspect's gun has been recovered.

The suspect was conveyed to a hospital for treatment of injuries believed to be non life-threatening. He was conscious when transported, responding with profanities when officers asked for his name. MPD has yet to identify him.

The suspect who immediately fled has not been located. Police don't believe him to be armed, just part of a drug exchange.

The officer who returned fire is a 26-year-old male assigned to District 5 with four years of service with the Milwaukee Police Department. As is protocol, he has been placed on administrative duty pending the outcome of the investigation by the Milwaukee Police Department and the Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office.

An outside agency will not investigate this use of force as the suspect's injuries do not appear to be life-threatening.

The first officer-involved shooting this month in Milwaukee happened on February 21st. An 18-year-old Milwaukee man was taken to the hospital after he was shot by a 21-year veteran of MPD near 10th and Concordia. That officer was placed on administrative duty, which is standard procedure. The DOJ was called upon to investigate this incident.

The second officer-involved shooting in Milwaukee occurred on March 9th at the Dollar General store on E. Locust Street. A 20-year-old Milwaukee man with an arrest record with MPD was shot by a seven-year veteran of MPD. The officer fired one shot, and police say the suspect then took his own weapon and shot himself. The suspect was taken to the hospital with very serious injuries. The officer was placed on administrative duty. The DOJ was called upon to investigate this incident.