Milwaukee police were dispatched Tuesday to investigate the disappearance of two teens. The girls, 13 and 15, had been found by the next day, and authorities said they were investigating whether or not the teens were victims of sex trafficking.
That should have been the entire story. Full stop. There would be other details to fill in, but there was nothing of national import there.
Instead, this was the outcome the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel described:
“By nightfall, three people — including two 14-year-olds — had been shot, a house was set on fire, and police had fired tear gas and pepper spray on some members of a scattered crowd of hundreds who’d gathered outside a Milwaukee house where police earlier conducted an investigation into two missing teenage girls.”
While some of this involved people who had some kind of morbid interest in the potential for a crime and a spirit of “vigilantism,” another driver behind the day of bricks, bullets and blazes was “tensions about police treatment” and “people expressing frustration with police and activists who’d marched in Milwaukee’s racial justice protests,” the newspaper reported.
Problems began brewing, apparently, when a crowd gathered near the police investigation at a home in the 2100 block of North 40th Street in the Wisconsin city.
“Some wanted to take the investigation into their own hands. Others joined the melee to express their grievances with police violence in general,” the Journal Sentinel reported.
Then, two 14-year-olds were reported shot in the area. One boy and one girl were shot; their injuries were considered not life-threatening.
A 24-year-old was also shot; although he refused medical treatment, his injuries were also declared not life-threatening.
The missing girls weren’t actually at the house, mind you.
“The officers searched the residence multiple times; however, the teenagers were not located at the location,” the police said in a news release, according to WISN-TV.
Police had responded to a “trouble with subject” call at 10 a.m. but didn’t find the girls or any evidence they were there. They were called to the house again an hour later due to what Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales called an “exchange of gunfire,” apparently between someone inside and people who wanted to get in.
“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,” police said in the news release.
According to the Journal Sentinel, by “late Tuesday morning,” there was a small crowd of people who were outside the house, some throwing bricks at a line of police officers that formed outside of the house while investigators were inside.
“By mid-afternoon, the crowd had swelled to hundreds of onlookers. About 15 to 20 officers formed a line outside the house to keep the crowd back but left after investigators completed their work,” the newspaper reported.
— Caroline Reinwald (@WISN_Caroline) June 24, 2020
“The crowd then surged toward the house, as some in the group wanted to look for evidence that supported the rumors of sex trafficking. Some broke into the house, while others smashed the windows of a vehicle parked on the property.”
And then authorities had to deal with a blaze at the house. According to some on social media, this was a positive thing, since the mob came to the evidence-free conclusion the people inside were involved in sex trafficking and didn’t think that the police were acting fast enough:
In #Milwaukee 2 underaged Black girls were reported missing..
The police refused to do anything about it…
The Black community in Milwaukee got together, found the girls and rescued them..
They then burned down the house of the alleged pedophile who tried to traffic them
— Tariq Nasheed ?? (@tariqnasheed) June 24, 2020
There’s social media influencer and left-wing conspiracy theorist Tariq Nasheed, doing his usual Tariq Nasheed act. It’s worth noting no one in the house was arrested on any sex trafficking charges, but that’s not stopping him from saying that setting their house on fire was a show of black power.
Even if anyone inside the house ended up being charged in the case, this rush to judgment wouldn’t have been remotely appropriate.
And from the looks of things, charges won’t be forthcoming anytime soon: “There is also no evidence to substantiate that human trafficking occurred at that location,” police said in their news release.
Nice work, everyone.
WISN-TV talked to a man named Pat Bills who said his grandmother lived in the house.
“She’s a loving lady. She had three strokes. She’s fighting for the last little life she got left. I’m surprised this here didn’t set her off,” he said. “After they get the right information, for them to come back and still burn down the house, terrorism stuff, that’s wrong. And then, y’all gonna use that to make a move and talk about some empowerment? Y’all are being empowering? You’re not empowering at all. Y’all are terrorists.”
And then there was the landlady of the house, Anna Bartsch, a woman who’s done missionary work in the inner city.
“I was in tears. When we moved back to Milwaukee, we did all we could to help build up this whole community. And so, yes, [it’s] devastating,” she said.
Unbelievably, police had to defend their eventual decision to use tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets to secure the scene, noting that they had to ensure firefighters could put out the blaze and medical aid could get to one of the shooting victims.
“We had to go out there and now do a rescue in the middle of an angry crowd,” Morales said at a news conference.
“This whole chain of events could have been avoided,” he added. “And my heart goes out for the people that live in this community.”
He went on to talk about the effect on people in the neighborhood: “We investigate the information that is given to us. 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,” Morales said. “We need to investigate that. That’s what the police is here for.”
He also bemoaned the fake news about the investigation being spread by people like Nasheed.
“We have to be allowed to conduct our investigation and not chase a crowd and take that information from that crowd to be factual,” he said.
The girls were eventually found, presumably with no input from the mob. In fact, there’s no interpretation of events in which the mob didn’t make the situation exponentially worse.
We’ve reached peak anti-police sentiment when crowds can determine when the police aren’t moving fast enough on an investigation, who’s involved in sex trafficking and how they should be punished.
And look how much more efficiently they do it than police do! There were only three people shot, an exchange of gunfire between the owners of the house and the people inside, a house set ablaze and bricks and other projectiles hurled at the actual law enforcement officers. Oh, and seven of them were injured for good measure, along with one firefighter.
This evinces a deep sickness in American life. We’re at a time when the people who actually investigate crimes can’t do it because people who purportedly want those crimes investigated faster also have a profound hatred for those charged with investigating it.
What should have been a five-paragraph story is instead a gargantuan tale where crime after crime is committed in order to solve a disappearance that may or may not have involved a crime.
If you needed more proof of the self-evident fact that mob justice is always injustice, some of Milwaukee’s finest cop-haters have certainly provided it. Congratulations, I guess.
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