A total of 21 people were injured in three separate shootings near an entertainment district where thousands gathered for an NBA playoff game in Milwaukee.
Downtown Milwaukee will also be under a limited curfew for the rest of the weekend and a massive watch party scheduled for Sunday has been called off after various incidents on Friday night.
In one of the shootings, 17 people were hurt when two groups started firing at each other. Three people were hurt in another shooting, and one in the third. All of the gunfire happened streets from the arena where the Milwaukee Bucks lost to the Boston Celtics in Game 6 of the NBA’s Eastern Conference Semi-finals.
The Milwaukee Fire Department said authorities took two people to a hospital, a 30-year-old man and a 16-year-old girl, and a third person drove to a hospital. All of the victims are expected to survive.
Police said a 29-year-old man is in custody following the first shooting and charges were pending a review by the Milwaukee County district attorney’s office.
No arrest has been made relating to the second shooting, Assistant Police Chief Nicole Waldner said.
Ten people were taken into custody and nine firearms were recovered from the third shooting, according to police, which described the incident as an exchange of gunfire between two groups of people.
“What makes people think they can just have a shootout on a public street or in an entertainment district, whether police are there or not?” Waldner asked at a Saturday news conference.
Witnesses told local television they saw a fight outside a bar following the basketball game. Police are investigating what led to the shooting.
It happened just outside the boundaries of the Deer District, a 30-acre entertainment district that was developed after a Fiserv Forum opened in 2018. It features numerous bars and restaurants where large crowds often assemble to watch major sporting events or to attend festivals.
The watch party for the Sunday afternoon game likely would have drawn well over 10,000 people. The Bucks said 11,000 attended a Game 6 watch party, even as more than 19,000 others were inside the arena.
“The shootings that happened in downtown Milwaukee last night were horrific and we condemn this devastating violence,” the Bucks said in a statement. It said the watch party was called off “to allow law enforcement to devote needed resources to the continued investigation of last night’s events,” but noted Deer District businesses will remain open.
Mayor Cavalier Johnson said the city imposed a curfew for the downtown area requiring everyone aged 20 or younger to be off the street by 11 p.m. for Saturday as well as Sunday – when the Bucks play at Boston in the determining Game 7.
Meanwhile, a Game 7 outdoor watch party that had been planned in the Deer District entertainment area just outside the arena was called off. Jeff Fleming, a spokesman for Johnson, said in a text the team decided to cancel the event “after consultation with the city and public safety agencies.”
Johnson said those responsible for the shootings will be held accountable.
“We cannot have that in this city, nor anywhere else in this state, nor anywhere else in this country,” he said.
Waldner said three people, including a 16-year-old girl, were injured in the first shooting at 9.10pm, which was roughly five minutes before the game ended. One man was taken into custody.
Bill Reinemann, a parking attendant at a lot adjacent to Deer District, said he heard gunshots, then saw scores of people running away.
“It sounded like six to eight gunshots,” he said. “It was close.”
At 10.30pm, a second shooting left one person injured then dozens of shots rang out at 11.09pm, in the third shooting that left 17 people hurt. Five of the injured were armed and were among the 10 people taken into custody, Waldner said. Police have not yet determined what set it off.
“There were a couple of groups exchanging gunfire despite the incredible amount of police presence that was downtown,” Waldner said. “District 1 officers reported bullets whizzing past their heads.”
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported broken glass, empty alcohol bottles, single shoes and two bloody shirts littered the streets in the chaotic aftermath.
Milwaukee was among several US cities that saw record numbers of killings in 2021, most of them involving guns.
Of Milwaukee’s 193 killings in 2021, 180 were by firearms. Another 873 people were wounded in shootings, according to police data.
This year, the pace is even worse. Milwaukee has already recorded 77 killings, a 40 per cent increase from the same time in 2021. The number of nonfatal shootings this year is 264, two less than from the same time a year ago.