Black Lives Matter protesters turned on the residents of the small Wisconsin city of Wauwatosa Wednesday, confronting homeowners and smashing windows of homes with large rocks.
They also vandalized and looted businesses, including a Speedway gas station and a Kumon Math and Reading Center. The Milwaukee suburb is home to a population of 48,000 people.
The rioting started hours after Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm announced no criminal charges would be filed against Wauwatosa Police Officer Joseph Mensah in the Feb. 2 fatal shooting of 17-year-old Alvin Cole.
Chisholm said he found Mensah was justified when he shot Cole after the teen fired a stolen handgun outside Mayfair Mall.
“In this case, there is sufficient evidence that officer Mensah had an actual subjective belief that deadly force was necessary and that belief was objectively reasonable,” Chisholm said.
Cole entered the Mayfair Mall at about 5.30 p.m. with a semi-automatic pistol in a bag over his shoulder. He got into an argument with another man and brandished his weapon.
Mall security told Cole to leave and contacted the police. When police confronted Cole outside the shopping center, he ran.
During the pursuit, Cole shot himself in the arm and fell before he pointed his gun at officers. Mensah opened fire, killing Cole, Chisholm wrote in his report.
Mensah was involved in two other deadly shootings over the last five years. He remains on administrative suspension pending proceedings with the Wauwatosa Police and Fire Commission.
The city had been bracing for an onslaught of peaceful-turned-violent protesters ahead of the announcement. Gov. Tony Evers authorized the National Guard to assist local law enforcement in Wauwatosa after officials requested help to ensure public safety.
More than 100 protesters began marching in the vicinity of 25th Street and Clybourn Street Wednesday evening and engaged in several confrontations with police.
By 6:30 p.m. an alert on Twitter warned residents in the area that homes were being targeted and they should seek shelter. Shortly afterward protesters along the North Menomonee River Pkwy and West North Ave route began throwing projectiles at police officers.
Wauwatosa police said they received reports of broken windows at multiple businesses between Wauwatosa Avenue and Swan Boulevard on North Avenue.
The officers declared an unlawful assembly shortly before 9 p.m., and established a protective perimeter around Wauwatosa City Hall with the aid of the National Guard.
“What started as a protest has become a large disturbance of public order that has caused property damage, and is threatening to cause injury to persons,” Wauwatosa police said in a statement.
“While not all members of the group intend harm,” it said, “everyone must disperse immediately.”
“Individuals in the group are throwing large rocks at law enforcement and buildings in the area of Swan Bl / W North Av,” the department said in a statement. “Residents in this area are advised to shelter in their homes, lock their doors, and move away from windows.”
The officers deployed tear gas when the crowd refused to disperse. Additional riot teams were also reportedly en route to the area.
At around midnight a group of young men looted a Speedway gas station at 92nd & West Burleigh St. in the city of Milwaukee.
Protesters marched north on 92nd Street and police fired tear gas at them near 92nd and North Avenue in Wauwatosa. The marchers were accompanied by a long caravan of cars.
“I’m not happy with the damage,” Wauwatosa Mayor Dennis McBride told local radio station WTMJ. “I’m not happy with the looting. The looting occurred in the city of Milwaukee, but that doesn’t make me any happier. The protests were relatively peaceful up until people got past 76thStreet, then some windows were smashed. I fail to see how that can be called a peaceful protest.”
The City of Wauwatosa has shut down City Hall for three days, with plans to reopen Monday and schools have shifted to an all-virtual model for the rest of the week. The Wauwatosa Public Library was closed to the public Wednesday and expects to reopen Monday.
The Milwaukee County Courthouse, Safety Building and Criminal Justice Facility closed at 2 p.m. Wednesday. Several businesses and government offices closed early Wednesday in anticipation of unrest or violence. Many businesses started boarding up windows Tuesday.
The City of Wauwatosa issued a 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew starting Wednesday night through Monday. Officials cautioned people to stay home between these hours except for those going to or from work, such as government officials, social service workers, and credentialed members of the press.
Overnight parking of vehicles is prohibited during the curfew to allow emergency service vehicles to respond.
Gasoline stations are closing between the curfew hours. Gas stations and hardware stores are prohibited from displaying and selling materials which could be used to start or accelerate the burning of buildings or the containers used to transport and dispense such materials.