Residents of Milwaukee burned down a house suspected of being a hub for sex trafficking after criticizing the local police department for failing to take action in the case of missing Black children.
Videos have been posted to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram showing versions of the story that conflict with what police and local news outlets are reporting.
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, police were searching for two missing Black girls aged 13 and 15 on Monday and Tuesday. The girls had been missing since Sunday and were found on Wednesday morning, but the situation led to a tense standoff between local residents and police who were searching a house.
The local police department was criticized for not treating the missing girls with any amount of urgency. Police spokeswoman Sgt. Sheronda Grant openly admitted to the Journal Sentinel that the case was not considered "critical" and did not warrant an Amber Alert, which is sent out for most missing children cases. She did not explain why.
Despite officials saying they searched the home on Monday and Tuesday for the girls, protesters said when they entered the house on their own they found evidence that sex trafficking was taking place along with bloody shorts.
Local residents, activists and parents blasted the police department for not taking them seriously and for ignoring evidence they gave local authorities. WISN reported that people notified police about sex trafficking activity at a series of houses near North 40th and West Lloyd streets but that residents said police were not proactive in searching for the girls.
Community members ultimately decided to take matters into their own hands, showing up at the house only to be shot at by the people inside. Police eventually removed them, but a tense standoff ensued, with the crowd eventually burning the house down.
The accounts on social media of what happened and what led up to the burning differ greatly, with some saying people have spent months reporting potential sex trafficking in the area.
Multiple people reported that when activists and local residents forced their way into the house, they found evidence that children had been there and that sex trafficking may have been going on.
Despite the evidence found in the home, Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales told the Journal Sentinel that the police went to the home on Monday and Tuesday but did not find the missing girls.
When a large group of people arrived at the home on Tuesday afternoon, they were met with gunfire by someone in the home, and the police were called again.
Video shows a line of police protecting the home as investigators searched through it.
Things getting very tense in an alley at 39th and Lloyd in a missing girls case. Two teenage girls are missing, the crowd here says this house is where they were last seen. People in the crowd tell me it’s a known sex trafficking house. Police have not confirmed. @WISN12News
— Caroline Reinwald (@WISN_Caroline) June 23, 2020
When police drove away, protesters descended on the house. Eventually, people set fire to it and a van outside.
As the situation escalated, police officers began firing rubber bullets and tear gas, injuring dozens of people.
Morales defended the police violence by saying officers had to secure the area so firefighters could work to put out the house fire.
"This whole chain of events could have been avoided. And my heart goes out for the people that live in this community. We investigate the information that is given to us. We can't allow an unruly crowd to determine what that investigation is. What you had today is vigilantism. You had people take the law into their own hands and run off of information that has not been proven. We need to investigate that. That's what the police is here for," Morales said at a news conference.
"We have to be allowed to conduct our investigation and not chase a crowd and take that information from that crowd to be factual," he added.
"there are a bunch of missing black kids that the cops don't care about. some were seen this morning at this house being put into a red minivan, and the house has been suspected as being a sex trafficking operation. cops "searched" the house, found nothing. neighborhood gathered.
— GIVE ME BACK MY NUDES (@Eugene_V_Dabbs) June 23, 2020
these are the words of a chief who is fucked TBH… we are gonna investigate the people who burned down a pedophiles house…something something the family didn't cooperate enough? really guy? maybe your cops shouldn't make parents of missing kids not want to cooperate. pic.twitter.com/WQzz7Y2kQm
— Antifascists are the only real Patriots (@workerwalkout) June 24, 2020
There were hundreds of tweets complaining about the slow investigation and the actions of police after the crowd formed. Local activist and protest leader Frank "Nitty" Sensabaugh shared a video on his Facebook page and explained that people were fed up with the number of missing children coming out of Milwaukee.
Just yesterday, 19-year-old Chrystul Kizer was released from jail on bail after allegedly being abused for months by Randall P. Volar III in Milwaukee. She shot and killed Volar to free herself but is now facing life in prison.
Sensabaugh said on Facebook Live that people in the area just wanted their children to be safe.
“The community thought there was missing kids at this house. … We had a victory. Burning down the house wasn’t a victory, but finding two kids was a victory,” he said on Facebook Live.
If you or someone else you know may be a victim of human sex trafficking, you can call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888 or text the word "help" to 233733.