Ashley Luthern, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, September 1, 2016
A woman beaten to death with a lamp in an act of domestic violence. A man fatally stabbed during an argument outside a tavern. A man shot and killed while returning from a funeral for his grandfather.
Those are just three of the 24 homicides recorded in August–what Milwaukee police have termed the “deadliest month” in 25 years.
It is the highest monthly total since July 1991, when the victims of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer were discovered, Milwaukee police said.
“We’ve had a slight increase in domestic violence homicides this year, but the biggest driver of our homicides is arguments and fights and retaliation among people with criminal records,” Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn said Thursday.
“Some of our challenge is simply consistently being able to deter armed offending through the criminal justice system,” he added. “The penalties are too weak.”
Although Chicago has captured national headlines for having its deadliest month in nearly two decades, Milwaukee had a higher per capita rate of killings (4 per 100,000 people) in August compared with its neighbor to the south (3.3 per 100,000 people), according to Milwaukee police.
Flynn said he wanted to bring attention to the homicides because the killings seemed to get lost in media coverage dominated by the fatal police shooting of Sylville Smith on Aug. 13. The police shooting touched off two nights of violent unrest in the Sherman Park neighborhood. Crowds have continued to gather near the scene, N. 44th St. and W. Auer Ave., leading to recent arrests after officers were summoned to the area by nearby residents.
“The fact remains the overwhelming problem facing this city is violent crime, homicidal violent crime, that is most significant in afflicting our disadvantaged neighborhoods of color,” Flynn said.
Flynn said the department has been challenged by having to “expend extraordinary resources” to the continuing unrest and that “has obviously had an impact on our ability to be proactive.”
City officials have said a body camera video showed Smith was armed with a gun and had turned toward the officer, Dominique Heaggan, when the shots were fired. The footage has not been released publicly to the frustration of many activists and residents, and officials do not expect to release the video until prosecutors make a charging decision.