“Beautiful thing:” 1 year after his death, Sylville Smith’s family hands out 100 backpacks, hosts celebration

Celebration in Sherman Park on August 13th, 2017

MILWAUKEE -- On August 14th, 2016, violent protests erupted for the second straight night in Milwaukee's Sherman Park neighborhood. Relatives of Sylville Smith, shot and killed by a then-Milwaukee police officer on August 13th marked the anniversary on Sunday night with a celebration.

As the sun went down, the fires were easy to find at Sherman Park Sunday night.

"It's a beautiful thing when everybody can get together. It's unfortunate it took a tragedy -- but it definitely is a beautiful thing," Ricky Alexander Bey said.

These flames, however, didn't result in destruction. They were meant to build.

Celebration in Sherman Park on August 13th, 2017

Sedan Smith

"We was, like, in a time of crisis. It was a tragic event. At that time, the city was in an unrest but, right now, we're active community members now -- so we're giving back to the community. We was here today to do a bookbag drive," Sedan Smith, Sylville Smith's brother said.

Sedan Smith said Sunday's rally came with the purpose of doing good in his brother's name.

On August 13th, 2016, Sylville Smith was shot and killed by Dominique Heaggan-Brown following a brief foot pursuit. Smith initially had a gun, but was unarmed at the time of the second and fatal shot, which came 1.69 seconds after the first. Heaggan-Brown was charged with reckless homicide, and a jury acquitted him earlier this year.

Dominique Heaggan-Brown, Sylville Smith

Dominique Heaggan-Brown body camera video

"Right now, with the way this trial played out, it was not equal. It was no justice," Sedan Smith said.

The shooting prompted two nights of violent protests. Rioters torched several businesses. While Smith's relatives said they remain upset with the verdict, they said their role now is to help restore a sense of community.

Thaddeus Ashford

"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," Thaddeus Ashford, Smith's cousin said.

"We can always do positive things. We could always get together, drama-free, and just have fun. Bring up the new generation and have fun," Angelica Walker said.

On August 13th, 2017, Sherman Park was allowed to serve its purpose, as a place of community.

Celebration in Sherman Park on August 13th, 2017

Celebration in Sherman Park on August 13th, 2017

Celebration in Sherman Park on August 13th, 2017

The Smith family said they gave away about 100 backpacks Sunday night, and raffled off a few pairs of shoes. Some of those backpacks were donated by the owners of the BP gas station that was torched during last summer's unrest.

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