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Press Release

U.S. Attorney Matthew Krueger delivers remarks regarding demonstrations in Milwaukee, prosecuting violent crimes, and police accountability

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Wisconsin

Following are remarks from U.S. Attorney Matthew Krueger as prepared for a press conference to announce federal charges against a Milwaukee man for an attempted arson.

“Good afternoon.  Thank you for coming here today.  I’ll be announcing federal charges that have been filed related to an attempted arson last Sunday evening in Milwaukee.

The charges arose out of the civil unrest that swept over Milwaukee last weekend following the killing of George Floyd.  I wish to again express my deepest sympathies to the family of George Floyd.  I was appalled and deeply troubled by the video of the police conduct depicted there.

There will be accountability for his death.  State charges have already been issued.  The Justice Department is conducting an independent, federal investigation into his death.  That is part of what the Justice Department routinely does.  The Department has a long-standing commitment to enforcing civil rights laws.  That commitment exists here in Milwaukee, too, where my office and the FBI regularly review alleged civil rights violations.

The protests, of course, are not only about George Floyd’s death.  The protests are also about all of the individuals who, over the years, have been unjustifiably killed or had their rights violated by people entrusted with their protection.

Law enforcement officers are held—and should be held—to the highest standards to enforce the law fairly, to protect all lives, and to ensure that racism plays no role in law enforcement.  That is the promise of our Constitution.  That is the commitment of state and local law enforcement leaders here in Wisconsin.  That is the commitment of the Justice Department. 

The past week has seen a second challenge to the rule of law.  Although most have expressed their grief and anger peacefully, others have exploited the situation to commit crimes.  We’ve seen in cities across the country rioting, looting, arsons, and attacks on police and other individuals.  The individuals engaging in such acts are tearing us apart at a time when we need to come together, and they are drowning out voices that call for constructive change.  That has to stop.  That leads to the charges I’m announcing today.

A federal criminal complaint charges Tyshaun Smith with attempted arson of a Boost Mobile store at 949 North 27th Street.  According to the complaint, on May 31, 2020, at approximately 11:03 p.m., Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) officers responded to a 911 call regarding an entry into the Boost Mobile store.  When officers arrived, Tyshaun Smith and two other individuals were standing outside of the store next to a broken window.  Smith was holding what appeared to be a burning Molotov cocktail.  An officer observed Smith throw the Molotov cocktail into the store.  Smith and others then ran from the scene.  Smith fell and was arrested.  When arrested, Smith’s sweatshirt and gloves were coated in gasoline, and he was in possession of a loaded 9 mm firearm.  Police were able to extinguish the burning Molotov cocktail in the store before it caused substantial damage, and recovered it. 

The complaint charges Smith with attempted arson and with possession of a destructive device.  If convicted of the attempted arson, he faces a mandatory minimum of 5 years and a maximum of 20 years in federal prison.  If convicted of possession of the destructive device, he would face up to 10 years in federal prison.  Please note that a criminal complaint states allegations only, and no one is guilty until proven so beyond a reasonable doubt.  The case was investigated by the Milwaukee Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (ATF). 

In the past week, over 100 businesses in Milwaukee have been damaged in various ways.  The Boost Mobile store damaged in this case served Milwaukee residents.  Its owners and employees had done nothing wrong and yet were victimized. 

It is not just Milwaukee’s local businesses that have been harmed during the unrest.  Last Friday night, a Milwaukee police officer suffered a minor gunshot injury.  We’re thankful that it was not worse.  Two nights ago, two officers and a pedestrian were injured by a reckless driver.  The pedestrian was hospitalized with significant injuries.  Again, last night, after midnight, there were large groups of vehicles driving recklessly, endangering the drivers and others.  These are not actions of protest.  These actions are not First Amendment speech.  These actions are not helping our community.  They are senseless acts of violence that create more victims. 

That is why the Justice Department is working closely with our state and local partners to address this violence and ensure public safety.  Now, to be clear, law enforcement is not trying to prevent peaceful protests.  From my vantage point of speaking with federal officials across the country, I can say that the law enforcement response in Milwaukee has generally been excellent.  Law enforcement officers working long hours are seeking to ensure peaceful protests can continue, while still protecting lives and property from damage.  Late at night, after the organized protests have ended, men and women in uniform are generally acting very professionally, with restraint, even in the face of angry crowds threatening police buildings and vehicles. 

Ask yourself, what if law enforcement did not have the resources to react quickly to the entry at the Boost Mobile store?  The Boost Mobile store would have likely been destroyed.  Mr. Smith would not be brought to justice. 

This is a time to come together in peaceful ways, to hear from each other, and to build trust.  Lawlessness by anyone—by police, or by rioters—prevents that dialogue.  So, I want to say thanks again to the men and women of uniform who have been working such long hours to allow constructive dialogue to continue while preventing further harm to innocent people in our city.”  

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Updated June 7, 2020