MILWAUKEE -- Community agencies held a news conference on Thursday morning, August 18th to urge authorities to release body cam video from the officer who fatally shot Sylville Smith on August 13th. The news conference was led by Martha De La Rosa of Wisconsin Jobs Now, Chris Ahmuty of the ACLU of Wisconsin and Dameion Perkins of the Coalition for Justice.
The incident started Saturday afternoon, when officers stopped two people who were in a car on the north side, according to the Milwaukee Police Department. Shortly after, both car occupants fled on foot as officers pursued them, police said. During the chase, an officer shot one of the two, Smith. Authorities say he was armed with a handgun. Smith was shot in the arm and chest -- he died on the scene.
In Thursday's news conference, Martha De La Rosa, Executive Director for Wisconsin Jobs Now urged investigators to release the body cam video from the officer to the family first -- and then to the community. She said they in no way want to complicate the Department of Justice investigation.
"Without transparency and the release of the body cam video, this community cannot, I repeat, this community cannot fully work to heal and move forward in a positive way," De La Rosa said.
De La Rosa said without the release of the body cam video, she fears the unrest in Milwaukee will reignite -- "and the impact will be greater than what we saw this last weekend.
Chris Ahmuty of the ACLU of Wisconsin officially made a request on Monday, August 15th for the body camera video to be released.
"The public, the investigators, everybody has an interest in what happens to the evidence that may be on the body-worn camera," Ahmuty said.
Ahmuty said there are two things they are concerned about -- the first, being chain of custody.
"What happened to that camera? Is the video tampered with? Is it being used to move the investigation forward?" Ahmuty said. "The other issue is public access. After the family gets to see the video, when will the public get to see it? Will it get to see it completely without anything getting edited out?"
Ahmuty also raised questions about statements made by Police Chief Ed Flynn and Mayor Tom Barrett about the circumstances which led to the shooting of Smith.
"Every day they hold off on the release of the video and hold off on answering simple questions about the investigation diminishes community trust," said Ahmuty.
Dameion Perkins, representing the Coalition for Justice and the Dontre Hamilton family, also spoke.
"The main point people need to understand is what took between that officer and that gentleman that lost his life. If you say that he (Smith) has done wrong, then release the evidence which shows that he was in wrongdoing. Just don't speak about it," Perkins said. "Healing for them (Smith family) will be seeing what is set out to be wrongdoing. And if not, allow them to find legal representation and present them in a legal manner."
The officer, 24, was assigned to District 7 and has six years of service with the Milwaukee Police Department -- three of those as an officer. He was not injured and is on administrative duty during the investigation and subsequent review by the district attorney's office.
Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn said Sunday that officer is African-American, and there are concerns for his safety.
The body camera video is not being released at this point, as the investigation continues.
"We’re going to have to weigh a couple different things. We have to weigh the public’s benefit. We have to weigh the rights of the officer involved. We have to weigh the concern that DCI has to have an investigation. I suppose there are people that would say we might have to protect a potential jury pool someday, I don’t know," Flynn said in a previous news conference.
By state law, the Wisconsin Department of Justice is leading the investigation.