At least 21 people injured in three downtown Milwaukee shootings after Bucks playoff game

MILWAUKEE —  At least 21 people were shot and injured in three separate shootings in Milwaukee’s downtown bar district after the Milwaukee Bucks playoff game, which drew thousands of people to the Deer District.

Following the shootings, Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson imposed a curfew Saturday afternoon for parts of downtown on Saturday and Sunday nights. The curfew will run from 11 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. for people under 21 years old.

One of the shootings, which occurred shortly after 11 p.m., left 17 people wounded. Five of the people who were injured were armed and taken into custody, police said Saturday.  

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The victims ranged in age from 15 to 47, and all are expected to survive, Milwaukee police said. Ten people, ranging in age from juveniles to adults, were arrested and nine guns were recovered.

Authorities have not released further information about the victims, the ages of the suspects and what they believe led up to the shooting. 

The shooting occurred shortly after 11 p.m. Friday – just two hours after and blocks away from an earlier shooting that wounded three people, including a 16-year-old girl.

In that shooting, police arrested a 19-year-old man and said two other men, ages 29 and 26, were wounded.

The gunshots sent hundreds of fans running through the Deer District, where 11,000 people had gathered to watch Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinal playoff series between the Bucks and Boston Celtics. 

Soon after that shooting, at about 10:30 p.m., a 20-year-old man was shot and injured . Police said Saturday that shooting did not appear to be connected to the latter shooting that occurred in the same area.

The Deer District has drawn thousands of people downtown in the last year to cheer on the Bucks. The area has been seen by many as a unifying space in a city with a reputation for segregated spaces.

On Friday night after the game, the streets were packed with people on what felt like the first night of summer in the city.

Thousands of people flooded out of Fiserv Forum and the Deer District and surrounding bars, with the large crowds swelling into the streets in what was almost a festival-like atmosphere – complete with music blasting, clouds of smoke and people stopping traffic for impromptu dance parties. 

Then gunfire sent people running. A reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, part of the USA TODAY Network, who left the arena about 11:30 p.m. heard sirens in all directions from dozens police squads and ambulances and saw drivers running red lights, speeding, swerving, yelling at pedestrians and at least one driver going the wrong way on a street.

The violence hit an entertainment district that has been battered by two years of the pandemic and other high-profile incidents of gun violence, including two homicides earlier this year.

‘Bullets were being sprayed everywhere’: Witnesses describe chaos in Deer District 

By Saturday morning, the Deer District’s North Water Street was littered with trash, blood spatters and evidence that people fled the area quickly. Broken glass, empty alcohol bottles, single shoes, bloody shirts and packaging for medical gauze littered the streets.

A few police officers from the Milwaukee School of Engineering and two workers with Milwaukee Downtown, the business improvement district, were picking up trash and debris.

Michael Tulsky, an MSOE student was inside his apartment when he heard gunshots. Within five minutes, he heard more gunfire.

“Bullets were being sprayed everywhere,” Tulsky said.

Tulsky watched from his window overlooking the intersection as crowds ran from the area. “People parted like the Red Sea,” he said. “Everyone was out of here as fast as they possibly could.”

Tulsky also saw a vehicle nearly hit a police officer who was walking across the street toward the scene of the shooting.

Then, he said, five other officers fired multiple rounds at the vehicle that sped away. Milwaukee police did not release any information about officers firing their guns in their initial release, but are expected to speak to reporters later Saturday.

Tulsky said he plans to stay inside during the next Bucks game, away from his windows. A bullet hit the window of his friend’s apartment next door, he said.

Another witness, Timothy Seymour, was inside the nearby Trinity Three Irish Pubs when he looked out the window and saw people running outside.

He didn’t know initially what had happened, but then a second round of gunfire about 15 minutes later made him realize there had been two shootings, he said. Bar staff pulled everyone inside, where they waited until about 11:30 p.m.

“As a city, we should do better. It’s not even sports-related at that point. More so somebody just creating havoc,” said Seymor, who has lived in Milwaukee his whole life and said he hasn’t seen gun violence at this level before.

‘Everybody has a gun’: Alderman draws link to last summer’s violence

Last summer, violence in the Water Street area – including reckless driving, fighting and shootings – drew widespread attention and pledges from public officials to make sure the district was safe.

Police vowed to maintain a “constant presence” in the area on weekend nights and nights of Bucks home games. At the time, one bar owner told elected officials “lawlessness that has taken over our street is nothing short of shocking and terrifying.”

In an interview Saturday morning, Milwaukee Ald. Robert Bauman, who represents much of downtown, said he been hearing from condominium associations over the last month or two about their concerns over last summer’s violence downtown.

“I told them very frankly, based on current conditions, I don’t know why last summer’s violence wouldn’t reoccur,” Bauman said. “I mean, you have the same dynamics.”

“The police had told me last year and I suspect it’s true again – everybody has a gun,” he added. “They’re outgunned, by far.”

He also raised concerned about the “tailgating” downtown, which he described as “non-bar patrons who just sit in or around their vehicles – drink, smoke, and play music – and they’re armed.”

The alderman said he had been told police planned to staff up and have a large presence downtown, but Bauman is calling for discussions about security perimeters around entertainment districts, weapons checks, and removing street parking in the area.

Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley and Council President José G. Pérez could not immediately be reached for interviews Saturday morning. Johnson, police leaders and other officials spoke with reporters Saturday afternoon.

Some residents already are pushing for Johnson to do more. Tom and Deb Russo, who were walking their dachshund early Saturday morning, said the shootings were “terrible” and “outrageous.”

They said if gun violence isn’t curbed soon, people won’t want to spend time and money downtown, and businesses could move out of the area.

“The mayor seems to be talking tough on it, but we don’t see anything happening yet, but he’s only been in office, what, a month?” Tom Russo said. “He says it’s his number one priority, and it ought to be his number one priority.”

MORE THAN 100 DEATHS A DAY: Gun violence reached ‘staggering’ record in 2020, report says

Contributing: The Associated Press

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