21 people were injured in shootings in downtown Milwaukee; Mayor Johnson imposes curfew Saturday night

The streets were packed with people on what felt like the first night of summer in the city.

Milwaukee’s downtown entertainment district, a space to celebrate and come together as a city, was rocked by gun violence Friday night after three shootings left at least 21 people wounded — including 17 shot in one incident.

Hours later, Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson imposed a curfew in the area for Saturday and Sunday nights.

“We’re going to do something about what happened here in this neighborhood last night,” Johnson said at downtown’s Red Arrow Park. “It will not be tolerated.”

The violence hit an entertainment district that has been battered by two years of the pandemic and other high-profile incidents of gun violence, including two homicides earlier this year.

On Friday night, 11,000 people gathered at the Deer District outside of Fiserv Forum where the Milwaukee Bucks lost to the Boston Celtics in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinal playoff.

By Saturday morning, police evidence markers, trash and personal belongings like shoes and combs could be seen along Water Street. Blood dotted the sidewalks.

“It was the perfect storm,” Assistant Police Chief Nicole Waldner said.

The curfew is from 11 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. for people under 21 years old. The curfew area will include parts of downtown bordered by Knapp and State streets, Vel Phillips Avenue and Broadway. The fine for violating curfew is $691.

Police also will be ticketing and towing vehicles, and officials are considering other options as the Bucks prepare to take on the Celtics in Game 7 in Boston on Sunday afternoon. Later Saturday, the Bucks canceled the planned watch party for Sunday in the Deer District.

“To put it simply, if you intend to loiter, if you intend to act out, cut up, if you intend to do anything that is unlawful, then my message is simple: Don’t come here,” Johnson said.

Three shootings Friday night in downtown Milwaukee

Gunshots sent hundreds of fans running through the Deer District about 9:15 p.m. Friday, just as the game ended.

A 16-year-old girl and two men, ages 29 and 26, were shot near the corner of North Martin Luther King Drive and Highland Avenue. A 19-year-old man was arrested.

Then, about 10:30 p.m., a 20-year-old man was shot and injured on Water Street near Highland Avenue. 

That prompted an “all-city assist” meaning every available officer responded downtown to deal with the crowds and the attention from the shootings, Waldner said. 

“It just drew more people to the area,” she said of the shooting.

That shooting did not appear to be connected to the third shooting which left 17 people wounded and took place at the same location, Waldner said. Five of the people who were injured were armed and taken into custody, she said.

The victims ranged in age from 15 to 47, and all are expected to survive. In total, 11 people, ranging in age from 19 to 30, were arrested and 10 guns were recovered, Waldner said. Police said they believe there are more people involved in last night’s shootings who have not yet been arrested.

The shooting involved “a couple of groups” who were exchanging gunfire “despite the incredible amount of police presence that was downtown,” she said. Officers reported bullets whizzing by their heads, she added.

“I know you all have questions about what this was about and I’m going to be honest with you, we are not there yet,” Waldner said. “We need time to investigate. We have resources coming in around the clock.”