The Milwaukee media’s finally broken its embargo of the video that went viral on Tuesday evening showing a crowd of protesters outside of a man’s home yelling at him while he holds a long gun from inside the house before police showed up, went inside, and escorted the man out in handcuffs a short time later. Local stations are now all reporting that the man was arrested on a variety of charges, including operating a firearm while intoxicated.
BLM protesters in Milwaukee, Wisc. surround a man’s house. He has a Trump & US flag on the outside. He appears to ready a gun from inside the home. He was reportedly arrested for brandishing the weapon. pic.twitter.com/tMKFUGVCa5
— Andy Ngô (@MrAndyNgo) September 16, 2020
As the tweet above suggests, the speculation was that the man was arrested for brandishing a firearm. Not so, says the Milwaukee Police Department. Instead, they charged him with using a gun while under the influence, as well as several other charges. And as it turns out, this wasn’t the first time police showed up at the man’s home this week.
According to the Milwaukee Police Department, officers were first called to 80th and Townsend on Monday, Sept. 14, after the 56-year-old man threatened to physically harm his neighbor as he held a chainsaw. The victim feared for his safety, police say. The man was arrested for disorderly conduct while armed.
On Tuesday, Sept. 15, officers were called to the same location where a crowd had gathered to protest outside the man’s residence. Around 8:30 p.m., officers were notified by a witness that the 56-year-old man was inside by a window, and motioned with a long gun “as if he chambered a round,” and pointed the gun at the crowd.
When officers made contact with the man, they became suspicious that he was under the influence. The report by CBS 58 doesn’t mention whether they gave the man a field sobriety test, asked him to submit to a breathalyzer test, or tested his blood alcohol level after his arrest, which kind of strikes me as odd. I’d like to know just how intoxicated this guy was. Are we talking one beer, or had he been steadily pounding back whisky for the three hours that protesters were yelling at him from the street?
The man, who has yet to be publicly identified, is now facing charges of endangering safety by use of a dangerous weapon while under the influence of an intoxicant, disorderly conduct while armed and bail jumping.
While the first media accounts do give us some more details, there are still other questions that remain to be answered, starting with “Why were no protesters also cited for disorderly conduct?” The Milwaukee Police Department’s statement on the matter simply affirms its support for the right of peaceful protest.
Suspect arrested for pointing and aiming a long gun at protesters pic.twitter.com/K7OFuW4Lda
— Milwaukee Police (@MilwaukeePolice) September 16, 2020
Obviously we need to wait for more facts to emerge, but the story as told by the Milwaukee Police does at least explain why the homeowner ended up in cuffs on Tuesday evening (though I’m still curious what his BAC was when officers tested him). What their story leaves out, however, is why police apparently don’t believe that any of the protesters themselves met the definition of disorderly conduct, which is defined in Wisconsin statute this way:
(1) Whoever, in a public or private place, engages in violent, abusive, indecent, profane, boisterous, unreasonably loud or otherwise disorderly conduct under circumstances in which the conduct tends to cause or provoke a disturbance is guilty of a Class B misdemeanor.
(2) Unless other facts and circumstances that indicate a criminal or malicious intent on the part of the person apply, a person is not in violation of, and may not be charged with a violation of, this section for loading a firearm, or for carrying or going armed with a firearm or a knife, without regard to whether the firearm is loaded or the firearm or the knife is concealed or openly carried.
I’m assuming the homeowner’s disorderly conduct charge stems from him allegedly pointing his long gun at the crowd, though police will have to show that it was meant with criminal or malicious intent. The homeowner’s best argument is that he had a mob of people outside his home, the police were apparently present but doing nothing, and he wanted the crowd to know that he was armed and would act in self-defense if necessary.
However, it’s also pretty clear that the protesters themselves were engaged in “abusive, indecent, profane, boisterous, and unreasonably loud conduct” that was intended to cause or provoke a disturbance.
According to police, it sounds like the protest outside of the home had been going on for at least three hours. Where is the line drawn from “peaceful protest” to “disorderly conduct”? Is the line different for a demonstration downtown versus a quiet residential street? Heck, for that matter at what point does that mob become a “large gathering” of more than 50 people that’s forbidden under Gov. Tony Evers’ COVID-19 emergency orders?
I don’t know any of the parties involved here, and I’m not about to vouch for the character of strangers. It could very well be that this guy is innocent. It’s also quite possible that he’s guilty of everything he’s been charged with. What I still can’t understand why police were only interested in the homeowner alone, and not the mob that had gathered outside of his house as well.