Shooting after Bucks game: Shootings in downtown Milwaukee, WI injure 21 near Deer District rallies, police department says

MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee officials on Saturday declared a youth curfew and added extra patrols after 21 people were injured in three separate downtown shootings near an entertainment district where thousands of people rallied for an NBA playoff game.

Three people were injured in the first shooting, one in the second and 17 in what police described as an exchange of gunfire between two groups of people, all within a few blocks of the arena where the Milwaukee Bucks lost to the Boston Celtics in Game 6 of the NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals. All victims should survive.

“What makes people think they can just have a shooting on a public street or in an entertainment district whether the police are there or not?” Deputy Police Chief Nicole Waldner asked during a midday news conference.

Mayor Cavalier Johnson said the city has imposed a downtown curfew, requiring anyone 20 or younger to be off the streets by 11 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Additional police patrols are also planned.

“We can’t have that in this city, or anywhere else in this state, or anywhere else in this country,” Johnson said.

The mayor did not cite any plans to ban downtown watch parties for Game 7 on Sunday afternoon. Although the game takes place in Boston, thousands of fans often gather downtown to watch on big screen TVs in the Deer District – an entertainment area with many bars and restaurants where large crowds often gather to watch major sporting events.

Waldner said three people were injured in the first shooting at 9:10 p.m. near Deer District. Among them, a 16-year-old girl. A man is in custody.

Bill Reinemann, a parking attendant adjacent to the Deer District, said he heard gunshots and then saw dozens of people running away.

“It felt like six to eight shots,” he said. “It was close.”

At 10:30 p.m., one person was shot dead. No arrests were made, Waldner said.

Seventeen other people were injured in a shooting at 11:09 p.m. Five of the injured were armed and were among 10 people arrested, Waldner said. Police have yet to determine what triggered the shooting.

“There were a few groups that were exchanging gunfire despite the incredible police presence downtown,” Waldner said. “Officers in District 1 reported bullets whizzing past their heads.”

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that broken glass, empty liquor bottles, single shoes and two bloody shirts littered the streets in the chaotic suites.

Jake O’Kane, 25, of Appleton, Wisconsin, attended the playoff game with his girlfriend. Then they saw the commotion of the first shooting, then walked a few blocks away and spent a few hours in bars before deciding to take a Lyft ride to a restaurant.

O’Kane said they were waiting outside for their turn “then all of a sudden you hear the ‘pop, pop, pop’ behind you.”

O’Kane said he heard about 20 gunshots before he was able to capture another 22 on video. He estimated the shots were within a few hundred yards of his group.

When the driver pulled over less than two minutes later, “I said, brother – drive!” O’Kane said.

The Bucks said in a statement late Friday that no shootings took place inside the Deer District, where about 11,000 fans who couldn’t enter the arena gathered to watch the game.

Milwaukee was among several US cities that recorded a record number of murders in 2021, most involving firearms. The list also included Philadelphia, Indianapolis and others.

Experts believe the stress and pressures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to the violence. Johnson blamed easy access to guns.

“A central part of the problem is the fact that individuals easily get their hands on guns,” Johnson said. “It’s not strictly a Milwaukee problem. Across the country, we’ve seen an increase in shootings, both fatal and non-fatal.”

Of Milwaukee’s 193 murders in 2021, 180 were committed by firearm. According to police data, another 873 people suffered gunshot wounds.

This year, the pace is even worse. Milwaukee has already recorded 77 murders, a 40% increase from the same time in 2021. The number of non-fatal shootings this year is 264, two fewer than the same time a year ago.

O’Kane said he’s worried about where Milwaukee is headed.

“Are we going to play another game again, if we win? Yeah, I’m still going to end up going to Bucks games. But are we going to party outside afterwards? No, not a chance.”

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


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