Memorials and solemn remembrances have been scheduled throughout Waukesha as the city plots a fresh future after the death of a young man who was killed in what appeared to be a terrorist attack in the city.
Jared Perez, 17, was fatally stabbed by seven other people — including three teenagers and two young adults, two of whom are thought to be brothers — after Perez tried to break up a fight during a funeral parade for the Jewish new year. He died at a hospital on Monday.
At a medical examiner’s office on Tuesday, of 13 wooden crosses positioned at the intersection where the attack occurred, many people wrote messages and left flower and Bible books. Several people identified themselves as relatives of the victim and offered sympathy to the family.
Residents are slowly beginning to pick up what they can amid the widespread destruction. Homeowners have started cleaning and renovating their properties. Two families are in the process of bulldozing portions of the crime scene. They said they could not afford to put up additional barricades to stop the looting.
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The city plans to rebuild the middle school in the area where the stabbing took place and hopes to renovate other areas as well.
Mayor Shawn Reilly and Governor Scott Walker ordered the state flag lowered to half-staff on Wednesday, telling the community that memorials are a moment to pause and reflect. However, any assistance the city would need will be held in reserve, because a national guard mobilization in response to the riots has not been canceled.
“We are in a time where we are getting a good sense of how the community is responding. There are still a lot of unknowns at this point,” Waukesha Police Chief Russell Jack said. “Every day that goes by without getting to know everybody and opening up our schools and park has been a slow process.”
Police say the original altercation began when an off-duty police officer spotted a verbal disagreement between a group of boys and girls. Jack said he does not know if the officer is Jewish.
Local business owner Dana Glusman was disturbed by what he saw. He has been selling balloon animals and faces at the We Energies torchlight parade for 10 years. He was stationed near the spot where Perez was fatally stabbed to keep an eye on the parade.
“It was literally moments that we witnessed the bloodshed,” he said. “I don’t know what happened with these seven, but how could anyone think they needed to take advantage of someone who didn’t know them?”
Police have said it appears Perez was stabbed in the neck, where he suffered deep wounds. His death marked the first hate crime in Wisconsin since 1967.
As authorities chased suspects in the attack, mobs of angry residents tore down and torched business and vehicles and occasionally clashed with police. The scene turned ugly on Tuesday night, when dozens of people in the crowd, which numbered in the hundreds, joined in lobbing brick and bottle-throwing into police vehicles. Officers used tear gas to break up the crowd.
Waukesha County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Ted Hartman said Tuesday that they were working with the FBI and Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation to determine if a crime occurred. He says local law enforcement already has no problem putting together a task force to investigate the potential criminal acts.
Search warrants were served to nine different businesses and residences and about a dozen cars were towed, according to Newschannel 12. The network reports that about three dozen people have been arrested, but authorities won’t say whether they believe they have all of the suspects.
Wisconsin State Journal reported that two of the accused teens will appear in juvenile court Thursday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.