As tempers mounted over a possible sex trafficking house in Milwaukee, protesters torched the home and a van after two missing girls were reportedly spotted at the residence.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales announced that the family of two missing children, ages 13 and 15, said that they have now been found safe. The statement was preceded by an outraged group of people who insisted that the children were inside a residence off of North 40th Street, allegedly known for sex trafficking.
Police spokeswoman Sgt. Sheronda Grant said authorities were still investigating whether the children were actually sex trafficked. She did not confirm whether authorities found the children inside the home.
“That’s something that we are looking into,” Grant said. “So that’s under review. However, I cannot confirm that that is the case.”
According to Morales, police had been to the home numerous times on Monday and Tuesday while searching for the children, after complaints from neighbors. When authorities could not find them, a group of people took matters into their own hands and went to the residence.
“An exchange of gunfire” occurred between someone inside the residence and a group of people trying to get inside. Police returned to the residence and stood outside while investigators worked the scene inside. As police formed a line outside of the home to prevent others from entering, some onlookers threw bricks at them.
The crowd of protesters continued to grow and by around 5 p.m., someone set the residence on fire.
Authorities eventually had to use pepper spray, rubber bullets, and tear gas after gunshots were fired from the crowd. Two teens were shot in the process by someone in the crowd. Both are expected to survive.
“This whole chain of events could have been avoided,” Morales said at the news conference. “And my heart goes out for the people that live in this community.”
“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.”
Parents at the scene said the house reiterated it was used for sex trafficking, according to ABC 12. A video recorded by a bystander appeared to show authorities escorting people from the home and into a van.
Neighbors said they saw the missing girls at the house earlier this week.
So far, no arrests have been made in the case. Authorities haven’t released any further details.
“We have to be allowed to conduct our investigation and not chase a crowd and take that information from that crowd to be factual,” Morales added.
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