The Milwaukee police officer who shot and killed Sylville Smith last weekend, touching off a firestorm in the city, may have known him from high school.
The man’s sister, Sherelle Smith, 22, told WITI-TV that her family knows the cop in question from his time at Pulaski High School, even though the Milwaukee Police Department has not publicly identified him.
“The boy knew my brother personally from high school. They knew each other. You knew exactly how my brother was, and you shot and killed him,” Smith said in an interview with the local Fox affiliate.
On Saturday, the unidentified police officer opened fire on her brother, 23, and struck him in the chest and arm. He allegedly was holding a stolen gun and refused to drop it during a foot chase.
According to his sister, the officer was not justified in using lethal force against Sylville Smith, even if footage from the officer’s body camera ultimately reveals that her brother had been brandishing a firearm.
“If my brother did have his gun in his hand, why he didn’t shoot back?” she asked. “If he’s going to go out, why not go out with a fight? Why not go out with a big bang?”
Sherelle Smith also condemned the violence and rioting that broke out in northern Milwaukee in the aftermath of her brother’s death. The shooting occurred at a time of heightened tension between law enforcement and the African-American community. Of the city’s roughly 600,000 residents, around 40 percent are black, according to the Census.
“Violence is never the key, though. I’m not saying that. I don’t want anyone to be violent,” she said to WITI-TV.
However, Smith also said she would keep fighting for answers about her brother’s death.
“If we don’t have answers, we’re going to find them, and we’re going to find them our way. We’re not going to find them y’all way no more. We’re not going to compromise no more,” Smith said.
Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke said at a news conference that Sylville Smith had a lengthy rap sheet and had been arrested 13 times.
He was accused of a shooting last year and subsequently intimidating the victim into recanting his statements identifying him as the gunman, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The charges were later dropped.
Clarke, who is African-American, has many supporters among conservatives who back his frequent condemnations of the Black Lives Matter movement and impassioned defense of U.S. law enforcement, including the one he gave at last month’s Republican National Convention.
In a Monday opinion piece in the Hill, Clarke accused liberal politicians and media of fanning the flames of resentment that grew into the riots in his city. He said the riots should reveal once and for all that liberal Democrats are responsible for “misery-inducing, divisive, exploitative and racist manipulation of the urban populations.”
“As Sheriff of Milwaukee County,” he wrote, “I am furious that the progressive left has put my citizens in harm’s way and that I had to send my officers into cauldrons of anarchy and hatred that were created by the left.”