Armed Man Whose Death Sparked Milwaukee Had Long Record, Including Witness Intimidation


The Milwaukee Police Department has reported that the armed man whose death sparked rioting over the weekend in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, had a long police record and was even the subject of a case of witness intimidation.

The man who allegedly ran from police after a traffic stop and was armed with a semi-automatic handgun has been identified as Milwaukee resident Sylville K. Smith, 23.

Milwaukee mayor, Democrat Tom Barrett said during a Sunday press conference that Smith “without question” had a gun in his hand when police confronted him on Saturday afternoon. In fact, Barrett insisted Smith had “more firepower than the officer,” according to the Daily Mail.

Indeed Smith has a record of handling firearms. At least one social media image of Smith shows him pointing a handgun with an extended magazine at the camera while another shows him holding a rifle. And last year the suspect was brought in on charges in connection with a shooting, but the charges were dismissed.

During the Sunday presser, Milwaukee Police Chief Edward A. Flynn said the incident lasted only seconds. He assured residents that the officers were in fear of their lives during the incident as the armed man refused to obey orders to drop his gun.

Chief Flynn said the body cam footage from the incident would be released at a later date after “due process.”

Smith also has a list of other charges mostly non-violent misdemeanors. Charges include speeding, retail theft and possession of drugs, the New York Daily News reported.

Mildred Haynes, Smith’s mother, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Smith had a concealed carry permit because he was recently robbed.

As to the dropped charges, the Journal Sentinel reported they were part of a witness intimidation investigation. Smith had been charged with first-degree recklessly endangering safety with witness intimidation.

The paper notes that prosecutors dropped the charges even though they had jail house recordings of Smith and his girlfriend discussing a plan to force a witness to say what they wanted said.

Indeed, even as the charges were dropped, the witness in question did recant his testimony in a case against Smith.

The police-involved shooting sparked two nights of rioting that ended with the destruction of several cars and businesses on the city’s North side.

Saturday and was a night of intimidation of bystanders, as well. Rioters were heard yelling “black power” as a gas station burned. They were also heard yelling to each other to attack white people who happened to be in the area.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at


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