Milwaukee, WI – Chaos erupted outside a Milwaukee home on Tuesday as anti-police protesters hurled bricks at officers who were trying to investigate the disappearance of two teenage girls.
At one point, the unruly mob tried to handle the matter themselves by barging into residences to search for the teens, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
Hundreds of people had converged in the area by the time the group set a nearby home and vehicle ablaze.
As firefighters battled the flames, two 14-year-olds were shot in altercations that didn’t involve police, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
The investigation into the whereabouts of the missing girls – ages 13 and 15 – began on Monday, after Milwaukee police learned that the teens hadn’t been seen since Sunday, Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales said during a press conference.
Officers responded to the home multiple times on both Monday and Tuesday, but were unable to locate the missing girls, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
A group of people showed up at the residence to search for the teens themselves at approximately 10 a.m. on Tuesday, at which point police were requested to help handle a “trouble with subject” call at that location, Chief Morales said.
They checked the home for the girls once again, but they were nowhere to be found.
After they left the scene, the group of people tried to force their way inside the residence, resulting in someone inside opening fire, according to Chief Morales.
Police responded to the home again and confirmed that no one was injured in the “exchange of gunfire,” he said.
By that time, a crowd of onlookers began to gather outside the residence.
Additional officers responded to the scene as the mob started hurling bricks at police, Chief Morales said.
The unruly mob swelled to hundreds of people by mid-afternoon, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
As many as 20 officers formed a line to hold the crowd back in order for police inside the home to complete their investigation.
Police left the scene once the investigators’ work was finished.
After they were gone, the mob took it upon themselves to break into the home to look for evidence to support rumors that the missing girls were possibly victims of a sex trafficking ring, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
They also smashed out the windows of a vehicle parked outside the house.
Meanwhile, other members of the group fanned out to search for the teens in nearby homes, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
Milwaukee police again responded to the area – this time dressed in crowd control gear – and formed lines around the initial home and on nearby streets.
The mob ultimately torched a home, a couch, and a vehicle, prompting fire crews to respond to the scene at approximately 5:45 p.m., Chief Morales said.
While the firefighters fought the blaze and police tried to hold the crowd back, gunshots rang out.
A boy and a girl, both of whom are 14 years old, suffered non-life threatening wounds during the shooting.
Chief Morales noted that police were not the ones who shot the teens, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Milwaukee police used pepper spray, rubber projectiles and tear gas to disperse the rioters so they could reach one of the wounded shooting victims.
“We had to go out there and now do a rescue in the middle of an angry crowd,” Chief Morales told reporters.
Members of the crowd continued to hurl bricks and other objects at firefighters and police as the mayhem continued.
Livestream videos showed volunteer medics tending to injured rioters, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Shortly after 7 p.m., local protest organizer Frank Sensabaugh led a march guiding people away from the fiery chaos.
A line of vehicles followed behind him, as well as a small group of protesters, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
Shots rang out again at approximately 7:30 p.m., and investigators learned that someone had fired bullets at a vehicle.
A 24-year-old man was wounded in the attack, but his injuries were non-life threatening and he refused medical treatment, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Although local news stations reported that the missing teenage girls had been found safe, Chief Morales said that police are still searching for one of the girls.
The chief denounced the “vigilantism” that erupted at the scene, and said that the “whole chain of events could have been avoided,” the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
“We investigate the information that is given to us. We can’t allow an unruly crowd to determine what that investigation is,” he said during the press conference. “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.”
Chief Morales said that the mob did nothing but detract from the investigation and get people injured.
“We have to be allowed to conduct our investigation and not chase a crowd,” he implored.
A total of seven Milwaukee police officers and one firefighter were injured during the mayhem, Chief Morales said.
Seven people were arrested during the chaos, according to WISN.
Police are still investigating whether or not the girls’ disappearance may be tied to sex trafficking, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
“That’s something that we’re looking into,” Milwaukee Police Sergeant Sheronda Grant told the paper. “That’s under review, however I cannot confirm that is the case.”
Sgt. Grant said that the teens’ disappearances did not meet the criteria for an Amber Alert to be issued.
According to Chief Morales, police did not receive “the cooperation we would expect” from the missing girls’ family, WITI reported.
The family has insisted that both girls have been located and are safe, but claimed they haven’t had the opportunity to ask them where they were for the three days they were missing, according to WITI.
Police have only confirmed that one of the girls has been located.