A crowd of people angry about the disappearance of two girls burned a vacant home and a van in Milwaukee on June 23, after people accused police of not responding quickly enough to concerns the girls were being sex trafficked at the dwelling. You can watch videos from the scene later in this article. Be aware that some of the videos have graphic language.
However, Milwaukee police told WISN-12 that they found no evidence of sex trafficking occurring at the house.
“The members of the Milwaukee Police Department take our oaths to protect and serve all residents seriously. Our members investigate several missing persons calls each day and work to safely locate all missing children,” police said in a statement to WISN. “The destruction and utter chaos that occurred on 40th and Lloyd on Tuesday, June 22, 2020, was reprehensible. Innocent people lost their homes as a result of the gossip and rumors fueled by social media detectives. Starting a riot and burning down the home of innocent people is unreasonable, unacceptable and causes unnecessary trauma to the individuals who live in that neighborhood.”
Milwaukee County Sheriff Earnell Lucas said it was an “overreaction to misinformation and resulted in displacement of a mother and her newborn child.”
Jaleesa Hall, who was a tenant in part of the home, told the television station that she never saw anything suspicious at the home and “lost everything.”
Police released this statement:
On Monday, June 22, 2020, Milwaukee Police responded to a residence located on the 2100 block of North 40th Street to check for a missing 13 year old female and a missing 15 year old female. The officers searched the residence multiple times; however, the teenagers were not located at the location.
On Tuesday, June 23, 2020, at approximately 10:00 am, officers were dispatched to a trouble with subject call at the same location and were notified that individuals attempted to enter the residence to conduct their own missing check. Officers searched the residence again; however, the teenagers were once again not located at the location.
An hour later, at approximately 11:00 am, officers responded to a ShotSpotter activation at the same house on the 2100 block of North 40th Street. Upon arrival, officers discovered that shots were exchanged between the residents of the home and the group of individuals who were attempting to enter the residence.
While officers were on scene, the crowd continued to grow and individuals began to throw bricks and pieces of concrete at officers, which resulted in two officers being injured. Due to the large crowd and their unruly behavior, the officers who were at the location requested back up. Prior to additional officers arriving at the scene, the crowd surrounded the rear of the residence and set a couch, a vehicle and a residence on fire.
Milwaukee Police had to escort members of the Milwaukee Fire Department to the scene in order for them to be able to safely extinguish the fire. As a result of responding to this incident, one member of the Milwaukee Fire Department sustained a non-life threatening injury and was transported to a local hospital.
During this incident several shots were fired by individuals in the crowd and three individuals sustained non-life threatening gunshot injuries. The victims of those non-fatal shootings were taken to a local hospital for treatment where they are expected to survive. A total of ten officers sustained injuries.
Later in the evening, the crowd returned and reignited the fire to the residence. Officers intervened; however, three officers were injured by individuals who were in the crowd who struck them with bricks.
The Milwaukee Police Department can confirm that both missing teenagers have been located and are with their families. At no point did the missing teenagers qualify under the state guidelines for an Amber Alert.
MPD interviewed both teenagers who denied going to or being at the residence and denied meeting or knowing anyone who lived at that residence. There is also no evidence to substantiate that human trafficking occurred at that location.
The preliminary investigation revealed that no information has been provided to MPD to suggest that the teenagers were at the residence that was set on fire or that any foul play occurred at that location.
This remains an active and ongoing investigation. MPD is currently seeking several suspects who are wanted in connection to the arson that occurred at the location as well as the suspects who were involved in the shots fired and shooting incidents.
If anyone has any information regarding this incident they are asked to call Milwaukee Police at 414-935-7360 or Milwaukee Crime Stoppers at 414-224-TIPS for a cash reward.
Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales said in an evening press conference, which you can watch below, that “several shots were fired in the crowd. Three individuals were shot during this event. None by police. Those three victims are at a local hospital getting help for their non-life-threatening injuries, and we’re still investigating that.” He said that one of the two missing girls was located, and police were still trying to locate the second girl (activists say both were found.) Morales said police didn’t get the cooperation they needed from family. “This whole chain of events could have been avoided,” Morales said.
In one of community activist Frank Nitty’s widely viewed livestream videos from the scene, a different story was told. You can watch one of those videos here. It gives the side of the community members in great detail:
“They said there were a couple of little missing kids in this house,” Nitty says in the video. “It started with this house, missing kids. When the people called the police, the police came and didn’t do sh-t basically, so the people decided themselves to come back to the house. People came to the house, they said people left the house, little kids left the house. So, when they came to the door, people started shooting throughout the door. Then the police came and arrested the people for shooting through the door. The detective told me he didn’t find any evidence of the missing kids in the house.” Community members then got word that the kids may have gone to a different house. The kids “started to run” and people chased them through a park.
He said people decided to enter the home and find evidence. They found shorts with blood on it. They believed a person in the house was a sex offender. He said “police haven’t been doing anything about it,” referring to sex trafficking rings. People are trying to “take our city back.” He said the police were standing in front of an alleged sex trafficker’s house. He said “we don’t know for sure they were sex trafficking.” He called for the police to be defunded. “We have all these black kids missing,” and the police weren’t doing “sh*t about it” and didn’t put out an Amber Alert, he said (police are required to meet specific criteria to issue Amber Alerts, including having a suspect or suspect vehicle description).
Chief Morales said in his press conference that there are people who “want to live in normalcy.” He said that people who live in that area of the City of Milwaukee “choose to live” there, and police are there to “preserve life.”
Here’s what you need to know:
Morales Called What Happened ‘Vigilantism’ But a State Representative Says People Were Upset Because They Believed Sex Trafficking Was Occurring at the House
A reporter told Morales that people in the crowd said they don’t believe police care when black children go missing.
“We investigate the information that is given to us,” Morales said. “We can’t allow an unruly crowd to determine what that investigation is. What you had today is vigilantism. You had people take the law into their own hands and run off of information that has not been proven. We need to investigate that… we need to determine what crimes have been committed.”
Democratic state Rep. Jonathan Brostoff posted a video statement on Facebook. He said what was seen in this incident was not related to George Floyd protests. Some people were mistakenly “conflating” that, he said. The first thing he saw was a “bunch of police cars parked. A bunch of police all over.” He saw a group of police walking with batons, walking in a “hurried pace.” He began recording to get the “unedited truth” out, but stressed that he doesn’t have “all the answers as to what exactly went down…there’s a lot of speculation and conflicting stories in the media right now. We are living in an era where everything is right away, right away.”
Brostoff said there were “accusations about sex trafficking about this one house that was out there. People were understandably very upset. This was dealing with community members who were saying there were problems at that house…” He said what went down has resulted in conflicting stories. He said a couple “strange things stood out to me.” He alleged that an officer at the scene had the words “pure evil” tattooed on his knuckles. “It just added to the tension of the situation when that was pointed out,” he said, alleging an officer was talking to people about black-on-black violence, although he said he heard that secondhand. The officer said “all lives matter,” Brostoff claimed. “That was weird,” he said, accusing the officer of “escalating the situation.”
Brostoff said the big takeaway from the day was that there was a “big police presence” but the “fire still happened” and “people still got hurt, a lot of tear gas and a lot of rubber bullets.” He said police have a “hard job” and are being stressed by working overtime “harassing and messing with all these peaceful protesters. Why? It doesn’t make sense, and how much money is being spent on that?” He said it was a “clarion call” that money should be spent instead on violence prevention and community building because “they had everything out there.” He said the lack of an Amber Alert should be investigated.
Morales said police had not gotten the cooperation they needed to “push forward.” He said there was no information to prove as fact the accusations that the house was used for sex trafficking.
There were multiple calls for service to that house before. “We have responded to that house, to that location, multiple times in the last two days,” said Morales.
“We have to be allowed to conduct our investigation and not chase a crowd and take that information from that crowd,” he said. “…The police need to determine the facts.”
He added, “We’ve been there all day today… trying to defuse things and conduct an investigation.” He said there “were some people removed from that residence,” but he didn’t detail for what. He did say police used less lethal measures but didn’t fire their weapons. People in the crowd threw bricks at police, he said, and multiple officers suffered injuries. As the chief spoke, the bangs from what sounded like fireworks (or maybe even gunshots) went off in the background.
The Girls Were Missing Since Sunday
According to Urban Milwaukee.com, the two teenage girls were missing since Sunday afternoon but have now been found. However, the crowd burned down a house believed to be “connected to their disappearance.” Eventually, the site reported, the house was set on fire. Police “started using batons and pepper spray on the crowd,” Urban Milwaukee reported.
Milwaukee police, along with agencies throughout the United States, have faced calls to defund their department in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis.
Not long after the fire, police reported a shooting had also occurred in the area, writing, “Milwaukee Police are investigating a non-fatal shooting that occurred Tuesday, June 23, 2020 at approximately 7:36 p.m., on the area of the 4000 block of W. Lloyd Street. The victim was in a vehicle when several shots were fired at the vehicle.” Police added, “The victim, a 24-year-old man from Milwaukee sustained non-life threatening injuries. He walked into District Three to report it and refused medical treatment. Milwaukee Police continues to seek unknown suspects.”
Caroline Reinwald, a journalist with WISN-TV, wrote, “Things getting very tense in an alley at 39th and Lloyd in a missing girls case. Two teenage girls are missing, the crowd here says this house is where they were last seen. People in the crowd tell me it’s a known sex trafficking house. Police have not confirmed.” WTMJ-TV reported that it all started around 4 p.m., and “demonstrators had been seen throwing items toward one of the homes.”
Livestream Videos Captured the Chaos at the Scene
“Milwaukee police are surrounding a neighborhood as people have burned a house they believe was used for sex trafficking at 40th & Lloyd,” WISN-TV reported on Facebook. The television station identified the girls as a 13-year-old girl and a 15-year-old girl. At one point, officers showed up at the scene and a tense encounter erupted. After officers left on the afternoon of June 23, members of the crowd “began smashing the van windows and breaking into the house,” according to WISN.
Frank Nitty posted several lengthy livestreams on Facebook, writing, “Missing kids tracked to this house✊🏿✊🏼✊🏻.” Nitty’s lengthy videos showed a chaotic and contentious scene. Nitty’s video showed a crowd gathered outside the house, which has boarded windows. Police stood in riot gear in a line facing against the crowd at one point.
He also reported that the girls were found.
One local woman wrote a lengthy Facebook post giving purported details about the incident that has been widely shared on social media. She told Heavy it was information she “aggregated from Facebook live streams and statements made by those who were on scene,” via video, not firsthand information.