By Srijan Sen
After the last lingering fireworks lit up the Milwaukee sky on the evening of July 3, 15-year-old Matthew McMillian fatally shoot 14- year-old Tariq I. Akbar in the back of the head near the lakefront.
The incident happened on the 2200 block of N. Lake Drive, shortly after the fireworks ended.
McMillan is charged as an adult with the crime of first-degree reckless homicide.
If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of 65 years in prison.
The police and family initially provided separate reasons for Akbar’s death on Friday night.
While authorities claim two groups of teenagers started a social media brawl about a girl, Facebook posters claiming to be relatives say it was a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
A popular teen having just finished eighth grade, Akbar was amongst friends and his older brother at the fireworks. The older brother who witnessed the shooting “was taken into custody for a probation violation.”
According to Akbar’s brother, a group of 13 people, including McMillian, approached the brothers and their 16-year-old friend after the fireworks.
The official complaint does not mention what sparked the confrontation, but police maintain it stemmed from an online fight about a girl in which Akbar was not directly involved.
McMillian fired at least 10 shots as police recovered shell casings in nearby cars and a home on the 2200 block of Lake Drive.
On Tuesday, Akbar’s family and community members held a vigil to mourn the passing of an innocent life.
Merely hours after the vigil took place, a 13- year-old boy was fatally wounded in a home just west of Lincoln Park on Milwaukee’s north side.
Hours later, charges against McMillian were filed.
While Milwaukee has experienced an overall decrease in crime, homicides and shootings have been gradually increasing.
A first quarter report from the Milwaukee Homicide Review Commission found homicides are up 182 percent and shootings are up 31 percent since last year.
With 103 non-fatal shootings counted so far, 2015 saw the most homicides and non-fatal shootings since 2007 according to the report.
African-American males between 18 and 34 constitute bulk of homicide and non-fatal shooting victims.
The report also finds the primary cause of homicides to be over an argument or domestic violence.
Mayor Tom Barrett and Police Chief Edward Flynn have made several remarks over the past few years about illegal firearms in the wrong hands causing social havoc, but their collective call to action has been met with fierce backlash from pro-gun activists.
County Sheriff David Clark has frequently dismissed the role of illegal guns in shootings, calling on the Mayor to increase the size of departments.
However, on Friday, the shooting took place despite a significant police presence in the area.
Chief Flynn was blocks away according to Mayor Barrett.
Addressing the incident on Saturday, Mayor Barrett said he shares the frustration of those who feel violence in the county has increased and urged to direct attention toward the person holding the gun.
“I want to see where the gun came from,” said Barrett.
Akbar is the 77th homicide victim in Milwaukee so far this year and the sixth victim 17 or younger. Three of them, including Akbar, were killed by gunfire.