The Wild West at MPS

Unless kids are killed or maimed, gun battles at school are just police blotter items

By MIKE NICHOLS | February 10, 2022

You wonder how many parents of kids at Bradley Tech or some other schools in Milwaukee really know what’s going on there.

In the interest of transparency – and trying to understand why the Milwaukee School Board won’t reverse course and get cops back in and around schools as soon as humanly possible – I want to share what I learned from 130 pages of police reports about just one incident on December 6.

This is the kind of incident that once would have been front-page news. Nowadays, gunshots fired at a school might get a brief mention on TV news – unless somebody dies or a whole bunch of kids get shot and bleed.

Another recent incident at Rufus King High School, one that started with a social media-fueled fight between a couple girls outside the building during a basketball game, made the news because a kid called an uncle who showed up with a gun and shot four or five girls and women between the ages of 15 and 20.

The incident at Bradley didn’t get the attention because nobody got hit.

The police warned me not to reveal the identities of the juveniles involved under “any circumstances,” so I won’t. I’ll just refer to the central actors as Upstanding Juvenile #1 and The Kid with the Mom.

The incident started out as a fight inside the school between a couple groups of kids. At least one of the kids told the cops that he and his friends were running around the school “wearing black ski masks” that day. Some members of the other group, he said, were wearing “black ski masks” as well.

The Milwaukee Police Department used to place officers in and around schools. They don’t anymore because the school board thinks that’s too hard on the kids, it seems. Instead, according to police reports, Tech now has what the kids call “safeties.”

It’s unclear what these safeties do or if they are armed. Neither Tech’s principal nor a communications person at the MPS headquarters returned my calls. But whomever they are, I feel sorry for them.

The principal, Aaron Shapiro, told police “that he was advised of a fight on the second floor involving multiple individuals. (He) stated that the security personnel were initially able to control the fight but subjects were able to get away and continue fighting.”

Shapiro decided to suspend seven kids, he told police, and the school staff started notifying parents – which turned out to be a big mistake.

The Mom with the Kid showed up with her fiancée, her sister, her daughter, her niece and a friend of her daughter. The mom, who has a concealed carry permit, also brought along a black 9 mm handgun that she placed between the front seats of the car she came in.

Five members of that group, according to the reports, got out of cars and approached the school but weren’t allowed inside. When her son came out, she told police, she saw a group of boys running out of a red car parked across the street from the school – at least a couple of whom were wearing black ski masks and two of whom had guns in their hands. She alleged that one of the boys fired a shot.

Somebody inside her car also fired, according to one police report, although it is unclear who it was. The group had at least one other gun as well, according to that report, but the mom said it was probably a fake and that it did not go off.

Another report filed by an officer who watched video footage stated that six kids in the red car pulled up at 12:48 that afternoon, got out and ran toward the high school. Startled by something they did an “about-face” and ran back to the car. One of those kids, Upstanding Juvenile #1, fired two rounds up into the air.

Asked by police what led up to the shooting, he stated, “it was a fight and adults decided to get involved.”

He also said, “he does not really go to school, but he was (there) the day of the incident.’

And here’s one of most stunning little vignettes: At one point, the kid whose mom was called, his sister and his aunt, were standing behind a concrete Tech high school sign, according to one report. The sister is seen on video trying to shoot a gun into the air over the sign. The gun jammed and so there is this little family, sheltering behind the sign of the boy’s high school, “trying to manipulate the slide of the gun.”

“Principal Shapiro stated after the gunshots were fired outside (that the boy’s) entire family came into the school lobby,” according to one of the reports.

In fairness, how is a school principal or any number of safeties supposed to monitor or handle this stuff?

There were no police around until they were called to assist in what was called “an active shooter complaint.” The cops were told that “the parties involved appeared to be exchanging gunfire directly in front of the school with another party across the street from the school.”

One of the kids who fired a gun was taken into custody but, because he’s a juvenile, it’s going to be tough to find out what becomes of him. At least one of the adults was taken into custody but has not been charged.

I remember when Bradley Tech was built. Jane Pettit Bradley kicked in almost half of the $53 million needed to build it, maybe the largest private donation at the time to a single public high school in the nation.

MPS and the city of Milwaukee kicked in another $23 million. Rockwell International kicked in another $1 million. Wisconsin Energy, the Milwaukee Foundation, and all sorts of others kicked in big bucks.

It’s long been a disappointment. In 2015, Alan Borsuk reported that “overall, data suggests it may well be the lowest-performing large high school in the state.”

The students are, however, excelling at how to duck and cover or shoot a gun.

The police at the end of the day collected one Blazer 9mm Luger casing, a Federal .40 caliber S&W casing, an R-P .40 caliber S&W casing and a live cartridge.

I suspect the police, unfairly vilified in so many places, would like nothing better than to be given a chance to serve and protect. The School Board won’t let them. They did what I guess the Milwaukee School Board wants them to do: just clean up the evidence.

Mike Nichols is the president of the Badger Institute. Permission to reprint is granted as long as the author and Badger Institute are properly cited.