MILWAUKEE — As the calendar turns to the final month of 2020, Milwaukee County tops another terrible milestone in what’s been the worst year on record for homicides.
Overnight, the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner added three more homicides to the annual total, bringing it to 202 for the year with a whole month to go.
“That means that too many people are experiencing violence in the City of Milwaukee,” Hamid Abd-Al-Jabbar, Outreach Supervisor for 414Life said. “We’re working hard to get ahead of it and to stop it. Obviously, prevention means before somebody gets shot.”
Abd-Al-Jabbar works as a violence interrupter. He and his group try to intervene before one shooting turns into another one. He says, while the numbers are devastating enough on their own, it’s showing a growing disparity in who these victims are.
Of the 202 total homicides recorded in the county so far, 148 are African American. That total accounts for 73.3 percent of all homicides in the city.
“Whenever something affects the general public, it affects the Black and Brown community harder because they’re a community that has a lack of resources,” Abd-Al-Jabbar said. “Whether it’s financial, social, political, we’re at the bottom of any list you can think of. It’s going to affect us harder.”
Abd-Al-Jabbar says, pair those already existing inequities with an ongoing pandemic that is impacting the African American community the most, and it’s a recipe for disaster.
“The poverty level in Black and Brown communities are much higher than they are in other communities,” Abd-Al-Jabbar said. “So, people are going to do what they have to do to put food on the table. Sometimes, that is illegal things.”
Now, Abd-Al-Jabbar says there are things we all can do to make sure people don’t have to resort to crime just to get by. However, he says that will require everyone, white, Black or otherwise, to get on board. For those who may feel these murders aren’t happening in their neighborhood, think again.
Abd-Al-Jabbar says a single homicide can cost the county $1 million. Those costs go towards everything from the investigation, to prosecution and everything in between. That money, Abd-Al-Jabbar argues, could go towards making a better community and decreasing violence.
“We could invest it in other areas,” Abd-Al-Jabbar said. “Education, programs for kids, job creation. There could be a whole lot of stuff we could invest in.”
“I can't buy the analogy that there are no resources in the community,” Travis Landry, Regional Vice President of WestCare Wisconsin said. “I'm one of the guys to give resources to the community to give basic needs to survive and job opportunities.”
Landry’s work with WestCare Wisconsin focuses on enhancing community well-being. However, Sunday afternoon, he switched roles; going from leader to victim in a flash.
“The window rolled down, it got halfway down and the barrel is pointed directly at me,” Landry said.
While driving near 27th Street and Hope Street, a black, four-door vehicle with two to three young men inside, pulled up alongside his vehicle and pointed the gun at him.
“I saw the gun,” Landry said. “I actually saw the bullet come out of the gun when I hit my brakes. They just started shooting. I felt the bullet in my arm. I felt a burning sensation of a bullet in my arm.”
The car sped off and at Capitol Drive, it went left and Landry went right. He had to take himself to the hospital. When he got there, he fell out of his car. He says his lower arm felt as if it were disconnected from his upper arm. While sitting in the emergency room, waiting for help, he saw nearly a half dozen more people come in with bullet wounds.
And, if not for a bone in his arm, Landry doesn’t know what would have happened to him.
“The doctor told me I was lucky,” Landry said. “If the bone didn’t stop it, it would have gone into my chest and they don’t know where it would have gone.”
It’s now a frustrating paradox for Landry. He is angry about what happened but knows he is one of the people in the city trying to make a difference.
“I got a bullet in my arm,” Landry said. “I have to get surgery Friday to put a rod and screws in my arm to replace the bone. But this won’t deter me from doing what I do. We need help. We need help out here. These young folks, old folks, everybody. We need to learn that you can’t talk about Black Lives Matter if you don’t think about Black lives mattering. This should not happen. Period. It shouldn’t happen at all.”
The Milwaukee Police Department was not available for an interview but said, “Public safety is the Milwaukee Police Department’s top priority. MPD remains committed to working and engaging with our community to ensure that all of our neighborhoods are safe, vibrant and livable.”
Anyone with information on the shooting near 27th and Hope is asked to contact Milwaukee Police at (414) 935-7360, Crime Stoppers at (414) 224-TIPS or the P3 Tips App.