By Dylan Deprey
It was the one word Vaun Mayes, Program the Parks, used to describe Milwaukee’s violent week, during a Community Task Force press conference.
As of Thursday Aug. 9, there had been 8 homicides and countless shooting incidents since Wednesday Aug. 1.
As the weekend began, three 18-year-olds and a 20-year-old were injured in a shooting while playing basketball during a church picnic in Washington Park on Saturday, Aug. 4. According to police, the motive was still under investigation.
A 25-year-old man sustained a graze wound in a shooting the same day near 36th and Clarke.
On Aug.5, a 45-year-old man was injured in a shooting also near Washington Park.
The start to the week was the deadliest day Milwaukee had seen, as four people were killed within a 24-hour period.
A man in his early twenties died following a serious gunshot injury near 7th and Keefe.
The second victim, a 40-year-old man, died at the hospital following an argument that had escalated into a shooting near 5th and Clarke.
Nearly two hours later, a 17-year-old male and 22-year-old male were killed following a shooting in Swing Park underneath the Holton Street bridge. The incident began as an argument between two groups of people after hours in the park, according to Milwaukee Police.
Following the deadly night, Mayor Tom Barrett, MPD Chief Morales, elected officials and faith based groups held a press conference in Washington Park to address the incidents and make a call for action on Aug. 7.
Barrett said there was a correlation between the four homicides. All of them were arguments that escalated into gunfire, and that both the victim and assailant, whether it was the person or a group, had guns.
“You are out of your mind if you think that using a gun to resolve your dispute will not create more violence,” Barrett said. “Put the guns away.”
Barrett asked for parents to talk to their children, young and old, about the circumstances guns bring to situations.
He thanked the police and faith based community for their assistance in working to curb the violence, but he also asked for the entire City to play a role in creating a safe environment again.
Chief Morales said MPD had a busy weekend. He noted that detectives were working extensively on the cases. He noted that most of the violence stemmed from arguments.
“To escalate an argument with the use of a gun is a cowardly act,” Morales said. “This is where education comes in, where family comes in and the community need to come together and help people resolve conflict without pulling a gun out.”
Though City leaders plead for a violence-free rest of the week, he following night, an 18-year-old was shot and killed after an argument escalated near 58th and Townsend.
The same night a 22-year-old man was seriously injured during a drive-by shooting while sitting in his car near 12th and Vine. A 13-year-old was also caught in the crossfire, and injured.
Boots on the ground grieve for community and plead for support
Hours before Community Task Force held their press conference on Wednesday, a woman had been fatally shot near 35th and Clarke.
Mayes along with other community organizations hosted a press conference to extend their condolences and respond to the City’s statements from the day earlier.
Mayes said he respected the Mayor and Chief’s call for the community, but he noted that the work was already being done.
“The community is here, the community is doing the work, and the community is extending an olive branch and doing what we are supposed to do,” Mayes said. “What we don’t have is a connection and those people at the top sitting down with us.”
Mayes said the carousel of selective and ineffective programs in the parks made it difficult for people to connect because they were not community based.
“People can feel the energy that you bring, and if you don’t bring a genuine energy than its dead energy and nobody will care to participate,” Mayes said.
Camille Mays, Peace Garden Project MKE, spoke on behalf of Yelyani Hawthethorne, a father of one of the three teens shot playing basketball in Washington Park.
“He is not part of any organization, but he wants to rally and support local organizations doing positive work in the community,” Mays said on Hawethorne’s behalf. “He wants people to come together and collaborate.”
Mays said that her family frequently visited the park. She added that it hit home to know that young adults were injured and traumatized by senseless violence.
‘“I think people should be outraged that kids got shot in the park, and they should be doing more,” Mays said.
Mayes noted that from Sherman Park to Washington Park, local community members were putting in their due diligence, whether it be youth programming or crisis de-escalation.
“We are a community of people who are doing the work, we are here to do are part and put ourselves at risk but don’t keep asking us to do that for free,” Mayes said.
Our condolences to the families and friends who have lost their loved ones to gun violence.
The story is dedicated to Corneilus M. Parks, Otis E. Jones Jr., Lavonte T. Thompson, Willie L. Williams Jr., William E. Davis Jr., Cammeron G. Ealy and Tyler D. Evans.