The African-American Milwaukee police officer who shot dead a black man Saturday, touching off violent riots, has reportedly received death threats.
The police officer, whose identity was reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel but could not be confirmed by FoxNews.com, is reportedly a 24-year-old patrolman who went to high school with Sylville Smith, who was allegedly holding a gun and ignored orders to drop it when he was shot. Thousands of people have circulated a photo, purportedly of the police officer, on Facebook, with some posts accompanied by threats and even his home address.
“Now y'all see his face if he's seen anywhere in the city drop him,” read one post reported by the Journal Sentinel.
Another poster threatened to “shoot him right in his head.”
Other commenters urged restraint and warned against violence that could “destroy our own neighborhoods.”
Milwaukee police have not released the police officer’s name, and have said he is on administrative leave. The Journal Sentinel said it named the officer because “his identity already is widely known and readily available.”
The police officer and Smith reportedly knew each other from the Sherman Park neighborhood.
Milwaukee police are aware of threats on social media, against both the officer and police in general, Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn said Sunday. The officer is staying with relatives out of town, Flynn said.
“MPD has noted a disturbing national trend where users of social media have identified officers involved in uses of deadly force, threatened the officers and their families, and demonized them,” the police department said in a statement Tuesday. “Locally, we are aware of some general threats against our officers. MPD takes these threats seriously and is investigating.”
The cop was on patrol at about 3:30 p.m. Saturday when he pulled over a vehicle that officials said appeared suspicious. According to authorities, Smith was armed with a gun and turned toward the police officer. The officer, who was wearing a body camera, fired, striking Smith in the chest and arm. The camera footage is with the Wisconsin Department of Justice’s Division of Criminal Investigation, which has declined to release it pending the ongoing investigation.
Smith was arrested or cited nine times since 2011, including a charge of witness intimidation last year in a shooting case that was dropped when the witness recanted.