Downtown Milwaukee will be under a limited curfew for the rest of the weekend and a massive viewing party scheduled for Sunday was canceled after 21 people were injured in three separate shootings near an entertainment area where thousands gathered for an NBA playoff game.
In one shooting, 17 people were injured when two groups began shooting at each other. Three people were wounded in another shooting and one in the third. All of the shooting occurred within blocks of the ring as the Milwaukee Bucks lost to the Boston Celtics in Game 6 of the NBA Eastern Conference semifinals. All victims are expected to survive.
“What makes people think that they can shoot in a public street or in a recreational area, whether the police are present or not?” asked Assistant Police Chief Nicole Waldner at a news conference on Saturday.
Mayor Cavalier Johnson said the city has instituted a downtown curfew that requires everyone 20 years of age or younger to be off the street by 11 p.m. Saturday as well as Sunday — when the Bucks play Boston in the critical 7.
Meanwhile, an outdoor Game 7 watch party planned for the Deer District entertainment area outside the arena has been cancelled. Johnson’s spokesman Jeff Fleming said in a text that the team decided to cancel the event “after consulting with the city and public safety agencies.”
The observation party likely attracted over 10,000 people. The Bucks said 11,000 attended the Game 6 viewing party, even with more than 19,000 others inside the arena.
Johnson said those responsible for the shooting will be held accountable.
“We can’t have that in this city, nor anywhere else in this state, nor anywhere else in this country,” he said.
Waldner said three people, including a 16-year-old girl, were injured in the first shooting at 9.10 p.m., about five minutes before the match ended. One man was arrested.
The shooting took place outside the confines of the Deer District, a 30-acre entertainment area developed after the Fiserv Forum opened in 2018. It features several bars and restaurants where large crowds often gather to watch major sporting events or attend festivals.
Bill Reinmann, a parking worker in a yard adjacent to Deer County, said he heard gunshots, then saw dozens of people fleeing.
“It looked like six to eight shots,” he said. “closed.”
At 10:30 p.m., a second shooting injured one person. Waldner said no one was arrested.
Dozens of shots were fired at 11.09 p.m. In the third shooting, 17 people were wounded. Waldner said five of the wounded were armed and were among the 10 detained. The police have not yet determined the cause of the outbreak.
“There were two groups of people who exchanged fire despite the sheer number of police in the middle of town,” Waldner said. “Area 1 officers reported that bullets were buzzing over their heads.”
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that broken glass, empty alcohol bottles, individual shoes, and two bloody T-shirts littered the streets in the aftermath of the chaos.
Jake Auken, 25, of Appleton, Wisconsin, attended the playoff with his girlfriend. Then, they saw the commotion from the first shooting, then went a few blocks away and spent a few hours in bars before deciding to ride the Lyft to a restaurant.
They were outside waiting for their flight, O’Ken said, “and then all of a sudden you hear ‘pop, pop, pop’ behind you.”
Oken said he heard about 20 shots before he could capture another 22 video shots. He estimated that the shooting was hundreds of meters from his range.
When the driver stopped less than two minutes later, “I said, bro—may!” Oken said.
Milwaukee was among several US cities that saw record numbers of deaths in 2021, mostly using firearms. The list also included Philadelphia, Indianapolis, and others.
Experts believe stress and strain from the COVID-19 pandemic have contributed to the violence. Johnson blamed easy access to guns.
“A key part of the problem is the fact that people easily get their hands on guns,” Johnson said. “This is not specifically a Milwaukee problem. Across the country, we have seen a rise in shootings, both fatal and non-fatal.”
Of the 193 homicides in Milwaukee in 2021, 180 were from firearms. According to police data, 873 people were injured in the shooting.
This year, the pace is worse. Milwaukee has already recorded 77 homicides, up 40% from the same time in 2021. The number of non-fatal shootings this year was 264, twice less than the same period last year.
O’Ken said he’s worried about the direction Milwaukee is going.
“Are we going to another game again, if we win? Yes, I’m still going to the Bucks games. But are we going to celebrate outside after that? Hell no, not a chance.”