As a wounded Milwaukee police detective remained hospitalized Friday, more details emerged about the teenage suspects police believe were involved in the shooting.
Two suspects, both 18, were free on bail in other felony cases prior to the shooting. One of them — the suspected gunman — remained at large Friday evening.
The case appears likely to fuel the ongoing debate over bail in Wisconsin, which ignited after the Waukesha Christmas Parade tragedy.
The charged suspect in that case, Darrell Brooks, had been free on $1,000 bail in a felony domestic violence case when prosecutors say he drove through the parade route in November, killing six people, including a child, and injuring more than 60 others. He was bound over for trial Friday.
Milwaukee police have not publicly identified the suspected teen gunman wanted in the detective’s shooting, nor sought the public’s help in finding him as of late Friday. But the Journal Sentinel confirmed the teen’s identity with two law enforcement sources with knowledge of the investigation. The teen’s identity was first reported by Wisconsin Right Now.
The wounded 37-year-old detective who has seven years of experience remained in stable condition Friday, Milwaukee police said.
The suspected gunman’s earlier case involved charges of fleeing, recklessly endangering safety and resisting an officer. According to a criminal complaint, two officers saw the teen and another person inside a white Kia parked outside of a Culver’s Restaurant in Milwaukee. The two were wanted in connection with a shooting incident at Culver’s a few days prior, the complaint says.
When the officers drove up to the Kia with lights and sirens, the driver fled, leading police on a more than 3-mile chase, running red lights and hitting speeds of 90 mph before crashing into a tree on Capitol Drive, according to the complaint. The 18-year-old ran from the car with a gun before he was caught and arrested.
Online court records show Commissioner Grace Flynn set his bail at $1,000 in October and he posted it soon after. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for Feb. 8 after the first one in January was postponed.
Other two suspects already arrested
Milwaukee police arrested two other teens, ages 17 and 18, shortly after the shooting.
The 18-year-old already in custody was free on a signature bond in another case. A signature bond is a promise to appear for court proceedings, usually with a monetary penalty if an individual fails to show up. In this case, the penalty is $500.
Chief Jeffrey Norman said Thursday police took two teens, ages 17 and 18, into custody after a car chase ended along the 3000 block of North 30th Street.
The teens have not been formally charged but were arrested on suspicion of first-degree reckless endangerment and resisting arrest, according to arrest records.
The 18-year-old had a pending case from October. He was charged with operating a vehicle without consent and resisting an officer – a felony because the officer trying to arrest him was injured in the process.
According to the criminal complaint, the 18-year-old and another teen were in a stolen Kia Sportage being chased by Wauwatosa police on Oct.18. The occupants ditched the car and fled on foot in the 4200 block of West Auer Avenue in Milwaukee before they were arrested.
Norman said police were still determining how the two were involved in the incident and he indicated a second vehicle was involved. When asked if police had made additional arrests Friday, the department declined comment, citing an open investigation.
Officer ‘put his life on the life’
Reaction to the shooting on Friday focused mostly on the actions of the officer and the violence that has tormented the city for decades and reached historic levels for the last two years.
“He was simply enjoying his time off and, yet, responded to the situation at hand and put his life on the line to do what was right,” said Milwaukee County Sheriff Earnell Lucas, who himself was shot while on duty as a Milwaukee police officer in 1982. “We are all thankful for his action and his dedication to our community.”
Alds. Michael Murphy and Robert Bauman, along with State Sen. Lena Taylor of Milwaukee, described the officer’s actions as heroic.
“His instinctive nature to step in helped protect the lives of others who were in the area, and he is a shining example of the commitment our law enforcement officials have when it comes to protecting and serving our community,” Murphy said in a statement.
The Milwaukee Police Department and the city’s Office of Violence Prevention also extended gratitude to the bystanders, including one traveling nurse that was on site, who provided aid to the detective before first-responders could arrive after the shooting.
The Office of Violence Prevention said its staff is in contact with everyone involved in the incident to provide trauma support.
Third Ward neighborhood typically has few violent crime reports
Public officials also decried the circumstances of the violence — which took place in broad daylight in a neighborhood that experiences few violent incidents.
Ald. Robert Bauman called on police to “saturate the area” with additional resources.
“I, like so many others across the city, am fed up with the violence,” Bauman said. “What happened yesterday in the Third Ward, and continues to happen daily elsewhere, is outrageous. No one should have to fear for their life or well-being while grabbing food, visiting a shop or just walking through a neighborhood.”
The Third Ward is still a very safe neighborhood, said Ron San Felippo, chair of the Historic Third Ward Business Improvement District.
But it has seen an increase in car thefts and car break-ins over six months or so, even as those crime rates have spiked even higher throughout other Milwaukee neighborhoods, San Felippo told the Journal Sentinel.
The Third Ward has a strong police presence, he said. But officers cannot be everywhere, said San Felippo, a former Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission member.
“You can say, ‘Hey, we want to have a cop on every corner.’ That’s not realistic,” he said.
Neighborhood residents and business operators would like to see reasonable but greater consequences for juveniles who are arrested for stealing cars, San Felippo said.
Some of that solution has to come from state government, he said, where efforts to replace Wisconsin’s troubled youth prisons have stalled.
Meanwhile, the business improvement district, which is funded by special assessments on neighborhood commercial properties, recently purchased a former police squad car, San Felippo said.
District employees have been using the car to patrol the neighborhood — serving as an extra set of eyes and ears on the street, he said. Those patrols began just last week.
Third Ward residents and business operators are “very grateful” for the bravery of the officer who was shot was interceding in the robbery attempt, San Felippo said.
Frustration mounts over violence in Milwaukee
Speaking at the scene Thursday, Acting Mayor Cavalier Johnson illustrated the far corners of the city that violence has touched since the new year: a 9-year-old was injured in a shooting Jan. 1, a 16-year-old girl was killed while working at a Burger King Jan. 2; and now an off-duty detective was shot in the Third Ward.
“Folks in this city have had enough with the violence, particular the deadly gun violence that we see plaguing this community year in and year out,” Johnson said. “That’s why we’re going to be working with our partners at the state to make sure these incidents don’t happen because they’re literally affecting everybody in our community, from our babies to our police.”
Johnson and other public officials have taken particular issue with the increased availability of firearms, which, combined with a variety of other factors, has driven much of the city’s violence since 2020.
Wisconsin saw a 61% jump in gun sales from 2019 to 2020, according to Brady United, a national nonprofit that advocates for stricter gun laws. In Milwaukee, many of the guns confiscated by police were obtained through straw purchases, police have said.
Gun recoveries by Milwaukee police increased by 18% from 2019 to 2020. They increased another 5% from 2020 to 2021, totaling more than 3,200 firearms.
“We need to get illegal guns off the streets, strategically deploy resources and law enforcement and coordinate a response across city departments,” Taylor said.
Tom Daykin and Bruce Vielmetti of the Journal Sentinel staff contributed to this report.