The death of 23-year-old Sylville Smith, who was shot by a police officer after a chase when he reportedly refused to drop his loaded weapon, has caused massive civil unrest in Milwaukee and once again reopened the divide that exists between law enforcement and the black community.
Parts of the city had the appearance of a war zone on Saturday and Sunday night. Buildings were burned, stores were looted and objects were thrown at police while they tried to maintain order.
On Monday, Milwaukee announced a 10 p.m. curfew was going to be enforced in an effort to keep damage and violence to a minimum.
“There is a curfew that will be more strictly enforced tonight for teenagers,” Mayor Tom Barrett told reporters. “So parents, after 10 o’clock your teenagers better be home or in a place where they’re off the streets.”
Now Sylville Smith’s father is speaking out — and he apologized to his children for not being a good role model.
“I had to blame myself for a lot of things too, because your hero is your dad, and I played a very big part in my family’s role model for them,” Smith said Sunday in an emotional interview with WITI-TV. “Being on the street, doing things of the street life: entertaining, drug dealing and pimping, and they’re looking at their dad like, ‘He’s doing all these things.’”
Smith, who said he has “been going back and forth in jail,” urged parents to be present for their children and set a good example.
“When they see the wrong role model, this is what you get,” he said. “I’ve gotta start with my kids, and we gotta change our ways, to be better role models. And we gotta change ourselves. We’ve gotta talk to them, put some sense into them.”
Smith did claim the police were targeting blacks, but he said it wasn’t “their fault.” His advice was for young people to essentially lay low and not give law enforcement a reason to shoot you.
“If you know there’s a reason, don’t give in to the hand. Don’t be going around with big guns, don’t be going around shooting each other and letting them shoot y’all cause that’s just what they’re doing and they’re out to destroy us and we’re falling for it,” he concluded.
At the time of the shooting the officer was wearing a body cam. It has yet to be released, but Barrett is calling for officials to release it as quickly as possible so protesters can see that lethal force was necessary in the shooting.
Police Chief Edward Flynn has seen the video and confirmed that Smith was turned toward the officer with a gun in his hand. The audio on the footage was delayed, but Flynn stated the officer wasn’t in the wrong and acted appropriately in accordance with the law.