PowerUp: Milwaukee’s deadly record

Empower Wisconsin | Jan.3, 2023

Milwaukee finished 2022 with another deadly record, at least 215 homicides, according to preliminary data from the Milwaukee Police Department. It was the third straight year Wisconsin’s largest city set a record murder mark.

Danari Peer, 20, joined that dubious number on Oct. 5, when police say a former basketball teammate, Jaiquann McMurtry, killed him in a high-speed crash. McMurtry, also 20, had already accumulated a dangerous criminal record, including felonies involving carrying a firearm as a felon and cocaine possession.

Danari’s mom and dad, Nicole Byrd and Jackie Peer, don’t want any more candlelight vigils, community mourning sessions, or city leaders making empty promises. They want justice for their son, and for every victim killed by dangerous criminals repeatedly set free by Milwaukee County’s revolving door criminal justice system.

“We’ve realized just how dysfunctional the whole system is. It almost feels like they’re all working counterproductive, not working together,” Jackie told Empower Wisconsin’s M.D. Kittle last week on the Vicki McKenna Show. “The police feel like, ‘What’s the use of locking the people up if they’re right back on the street,’”

According to the police report, McMurtry was driving at speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour when he lost control of the vehicle and crashed into a tree, killing Danari. Police said McMurtry was racing another driver on Milwaukee’s Appleton Avenue. He had cocaine on him at the time, and was charged with second-degree reckless homicide, according to the report.

He’s expected back in court on Wednesday.

McMurtry was freed on $50,000 cash bond. The price tag of his many felony offenses together puts Danari’s life at about $8,500. His parents have done the cold, hard math.

Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm and his progressive justice friends in the county court system have a history of low bail releases for career violent criminals. It was Chisholm’s office that recommended just $1,000 bail for Darrell Brooks Jr., the Milwaukee man convicted of killing six people and injuring scores more in Waukesha’s 2021 Christmas parade. Brooks had been arrested a few weeks prior on charges of driving over the mother of his child — with the same red SUV he murderously drove into the parade.

Byrd said Chisholm told her that McMurtry shouldn’t even have been out on bail, “which didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out.”

Danari’s parents finally got a long-requested meeting with the district attorney after members of their Facebook group, Justice4Danari, flooded the office’s phone lines demanding Chisholm honor the request. Byrd said the DA pledged to look into revising the charge from second-degree to first-degree reckless homicide.

“I think they’re so used to this happening and families and parents grieving in silence, or being outraged for a period of time individually,” Peer said. “I think what’s different about us is we’re banding together with other people. We’re making noise, and we’re not going in there empty-handed.”

Nicole Byrd and Jackie Peer are our guests on today’s edition of PowerUp, Empower Wisconsin’s podcast.

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