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Wisconsin gov vows aid as community mourns slain man

Gretchen Ehlke
Associated Press

Milwaukee — State officials promised $4.5 million for job creation and other economic assistance for Milwaukee’s north side on Friday, hours before nearly 2,000 people showed up for the funeral of a black man fatally shot by police.

Community members say long-simmering frustration over unemployment and economic disparities underlie the violence and destruction of property that rocked Sherman Park for two nights following the Aug. 13 killing of Sylville Smith, who police say turned toward an officer with a gun in hand before he was shot.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said several state agencies will be involved in the effort to bring jobs and training to the neighborhood and adjoining areas where eight businesses were set on fire, police were pelted with rocks and random gunfire erupted after the shooting. The state’s Department of Workforce Development will send mobile response units to neighborhoods with high unemployment to provide job counseling and opportunities, he said.

The announcement came the same day Smith’s funeral was held in a north side church. Civil Rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson spoke to mourners at Christian Faith Fellowship Church.

Jackson called for peace and unity, but he also called for the release of body-camera video that police have said backs up the officer’s account of the shooting. Smith’s death is being investigated by the state Department of Justice.

Attorney General Brad Schimel said this week that the video, along with another from a body camera worn by a second officer, won’t be released until a charging decision is made.

At the jobs announcement earlier Friday, Mayor Tom Barrett said he was upset that it took another tragedy to prompt action in the community.

About $2 million will be used to demolish and rehabilitate foreclosed and blighted properties. Barrett estimated there are about 500 vacant properties, 200 of which are owned by the city.