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“Giving back in a positive manner:” Sylville Smith’s family hands out backpacks 1 year after unrest

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MILWAUKEE -- Sunday, August 13th marks the one-year anniversary of the unrest in Milwaukee's Sherman Park neighborhood, on the heels of the fatal shooting of Sylville Smith by former Milwaukee Police Officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown. Buildings were burned and businesses vandalized -- and it led to millions in damage.

One year later, relatives of Smith said they're taking the lead when it comes to helping the community heal. They hosted an anniversary event at Sherman Park Sunday.

Sylville Smith's brother and cousin

They used the word "celebration" when talking about what's going on here. They said they're celebrating life and want to see others around here do the same.

More than 100 gathered in Sherman Park Sunday for a cookout.

Smith's brother and cousin spoke from atop a picnic table, and handed out raffle tickets for a backpack giveaway.

The shooting of 23-year-old Sylville Smith sparked two nights of violent protests one year ago. Heaggan-Brown was charged with reckless homicide for Smith's death, but he was acquitted by a jury in June.

Dominique Heaggan-Brown, Sylville Smith

Smith's cousin said this event is about remembering the shooting in a constructive way.

"Last year, we had the riots and everything going on, burning everything down in the city. We got people coming together and celebrating life and we're giving back in a positive manner so it, like I say, it all feels good. It's all a good thing that's going on," Thaddeus Ashford, Smith's cousin said.

Ashford said the owners of the old BP gas station torched in the riots last summer donated about 100 backpacks themselves. The backpacks were the highlight of the event, but there was also free food. The Smith family said they want this to be a community gathering.