Police are planning to question the adult children
of two prominent Democrats as early as today in the wide-ranging probe into
who, early on election day, slashed the tires of 20 vans and cars rented by
the Republican Party.
The investigation has already led to the Tuesday
arrest of Opel E. Simmons III, a veteran party activist from Virginia
in town to work on John Kerrys presidential campaign. Simmons,
33, was released Thursday afternoon without being charged.
Sources told us that police, who are being assisted
by the FBI, plan to speak to Michael Pratt, son of former Acting Mayor
Marvin Pratt, and Supreme Solar Allah, the son of state Sen. Gwen
Moore, who won a seat in the U.S. Congress on Tuesday. Allahs given
name is Sowande Omokunde, and he lives in Moores north side home,
according to her campaign finance reports.
Officials declined to say what role the two sons
might have played in the incident or what they might know about it. But numerous
police sources made it clear that detectives from the police intelligence division
want to quiz them soon.
They will be talked to, one insider
said Thursday evening. Most likely probably tomorrow.
Even though authorities have not talked to his
son, sources said, Marvin Pratt has contacted the Police Department to inquire
about the case.
The senior Prattthe chairman of Kerrys
Milwaukee campaignalso popped up on the scene Tuesday night when police
arrived to arrest Simmons on a vandalism charge. Also witnessing the arrest,
sources said, was someone videotaping the bust.
Neither Marvin nor Michael Pratt returned a call
or responded to a message left at Marvin Pratts house. Moore and her son
did not respond to repeated calls.
Because of the sensitive nature of the investigation
and the possible involvement of the children of two of the areas best-known
politicians, sources said, Police Chief Nannette Hegerty called Mayor
Tom Barrett on Wednesday to tell him police would be speaking to Pratt
and Allah. Barrett defeated Pratt in April.
A spokesman for the mayors office confirmed
Thursday that the chief has briefed the mayor on the situation.
Its standard for the police chief to keep the mayor in the loop when investigating
a politically sensitive case.
Milwaukee police are looking to talk with many
more people than just the two sons of the prominent pols.
Theyd like to talk to at least five
people, said one source familiar with the investigation.
Oh, its more than that, said
another source. The list is about 10 names.
On Tuesday morning, the tires of 20 cars and vans
rented by Republican Party officials to carry voters to the polls were sliced.
The discovery was made at 6:30 a.m.
The rental cars were parked near a GOP office
in the 7100 block of W. Capitol Drive. Police originally said a guard saw a
man running from the Republican offices around 6:45 a.m.
Records show Simmons was booked into the police
holding facility at 10:35 p.m. Tuesday on an allegation of less than $2,500
worth of property damage. He was released Thursday afternoon, at the direction
of the district attorneys office, without being charged.
Sources said his arrest was directly tied to the
tire-slashing incident. According to those sources, Simmons is cooperating with
Simmons runs a consulting business for non-profit
and private businesses in Richmond, Va., and was previously a community outreach
director for the Richmond Symphony.
For the past 14 years, hes also been active
in Democratic politics, working as a community organizer on two previous presidential
campaigns. In September, he was named the base voter director for
the Democratic Party of Virginia.
Soon afterward, Simmons was dispatched to Wisconsin
to oversee a corps of 250 volunteers canvassing Milwaukees north side
for Kerrys campaign, according to a story last week in the Hartford
His army has knocked on 94,000 doors on
Milwaukees predominantly black north side and will finish knocking on
all 125,000 by Friday, the Courant story said. Then theyll
spend the weekend going back to selected homes.
Milwaukee police were led to Simmons because a
campaign car linked to the incident had been assigned to him, according to sources.
Simmons could not be reached for comment.
Milwaukee police are leading the investigation,
and the DAs office will decide whether to level charges. Depending on
the total amount of damages, the perpetrators could face felonies.
The U.S. attorneys office is also keeping
an eye on the matter. Federal prosecutors could get directly involved later
because the slashing involved a political campaign.