A Milwaukee police officer has been subjected to online threats by persons who say that he shot to death an armed black man on August 13 in Milwaukee. The death of 23-year-old Sylville Smith sparked two nights of riots and arson in Milwaukee. Racial tensions are at an all time high in the city, which is one of the most segregated metropolitan areas in the entire country. Whites were targeted for beat-downs by black rioters, while several businesses, including a gas station, were burned by arsonists.
So far, Milwaukee police have not released the name of the officer shot Smith. However, he is described to be black, as was Smith. Widely shared social media posts and one news report identified as a 24-year-old patrolman with several years of experience on the force. Several posts issued threats against him and included photos. Smith’s sister said she believes that the officer was her brother’s classmate in high school. She told a television news reporter that, while she does not approve of violence, that her community will not be satisfied until justice is done.
Sherelle Smith said in a television interview that as a boy, the officer knew her brother. She also expressed skepticism about the investigation into Sylville’s death. Even if body camera video shows a gun in her brother’s hand at the time of death, she does not believe the shooting is justified. "If my brother did have his gun in his hand, why he didn't shoot back? If he's gonna go out, why not go out with a fight? Why not go out with a big bang?" asked Smith.
Despite saying “I don't want anyone to be violent," while reflecting on the recent rioting, Smith said that if answers are not forthcoming, “we're gonna find them and we're gonna find them our way. We're not find them y'all way no more. We're not gonna compromise no more."
“We won’t do it your way,” she said, “we’ll do it our way.”
In a statement, the Milwaukee police department deplored what it called a “disturbing national trend" whereby users of social media have not only identified and threatened police officers involved in fatal shootings, but have also targeted their families.
The department would not confirm or deny the identity of the officer that is being circulated online. According to the statement, the police are aware of threats against its officers that it is investigating.
Smith spoke at a rally in the aftermath of her brother's death and appeared to call listeners to take violent action to Milwaukee's mostly-white suburbs.
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