MILWAUKEE — Five Milwaukee men are facing charges after prosecutors say they threw a lit firework out of their vehicle and onto the ground next to police, where it exploded and injured two officers on the night of Fourth of July.
A criminal complaint released Tuesday states prosecutors charged Gerrell Bufford, Demetrius A. Powell, Derek Montrell, Javaier Dwayne Thompson and Lawrence T. Turner as the suspects. They are facing a number of charges including first degree recklessly endangering safety, possession of explosives for unlawful purpose and possession of improvised explosive devices.
The complaint states two Milwaukee police officers were stationed in the median at 1213 Water St. just after midnight on July 5 when a vehicle pulled up and something was thrown from the vehicle next to one of the officers.
The item suddenly exploded, resulting in a large cloud of smoke, a loud bang and a bright flash, the complaint states. The officer says he then felt pain to his face, trouble hearing, disorientation and other injuries. Another officer nearby other felt some symptoms from the explosion but was able to help the first officer. Both officers were brought to the hospital, where they were treated for concussion symptoms, the complaint states.
Other officers at the intersection noticed a silver car near where the explosion happened, according to the complaint. They later described the item thrown near the other officers as being "red, cylindrical, and stick like, with a lit fuse attached to it."
Police say the explosion also caused the airbags in one of the squad cars to deploy, causing $2,500 worth of damage.
Police say they got the silver car's license plate and traced it to the owner, Smith.
About an hour later, officers tracked the car to North 50th Street. Meanwhile, police say they found a comment on Facebook regarding the incident. The comment included the names of several of the defendants, the complaint states.
During an interview with police, Smith said he and some other people were driving around the city and lighting off fireworks and tossing them out the window onto the street, according to police. He also identified the people with him during that night.
"Defendant Smith stated that they were driving around the downtown area, up and down Water St and he lit and threw fireworks off in the street around large groups of people to scare them because he thought it would be funny. Defendant Smith initially denied throwing any fireworks towards the police," the complaint states.
Police say phone records show Smith saying he bought pipe bombs for a thousand dollars and recounted the explosion going off near police officers.
During a second interview, police say Smith thought it would be funny to scare police with the explosives. According to the complaint, "Defendant Smith stated that they did not talk about targeting the police but they saw the police and thought it would be funny to scare them. Defendant
Smith acknowledged that they dropped the firework right by the police."