A Milwaukee police squad in front of the Municipal Court downtown. (Photo | Isiah Holmes)
The Milwaukee District Attorney’s Office has announced that it will charge 62-year-old Robert Walczykowski, who appeared in an Oct. 10 video holding a 24-year-old Black man by the throat and accusing the man of stealing a bicycle. Walczykowski, who is white, has been charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct.
Local resident Deangelo Wright made a video of the incident, which went viral on social media. The video shows Walczykowski holding the young man tightly by the neck and refusing to release him while calling the police. A criminal complaint filed against Walczykowski states that he told officers who arrived on the scene that he’d witnessed “some children go into his neighbor’s yard and attempt to remove a bicycle.” Walczykowski called his neighbor, who confirmed with the officer that he wanted the 62-year-old to call police.
Wright was traveling past when he witnessed Walczkowski yelling at “several children” and choking a young man in the incident he caught on video. Wright also called the police. The complaint states that two days later on Oct. 12, Milwaukee police officers arrived at a South Side residence to investigate an abandoned property complaint. Officers spoke with a woman who stated she wanted to turn over two bikes to the officers that did not belong to anyone in her family.
The woman stated that her son, who had been choked by Walczykowski, “possibly” had something to do with the bikes. The complaint states that the bikes that were recovered had not been reported stolen. The woman added that her son had disabilities and is “somewhat non-verbal,” the complaint states that “it was challenging to obtain details of the incident that occurred on Oct. 10, 2022.” The 24-year-old “made noises and pointed to his neck and said the word ‘bikes,’” the complaint read. Later, officers were informed by family members of the man that he has “the mental capacity of a 5-year-old.”
Following the incident, protests were held outside of Walczykowski’s home, including by community activist Vaun Mayes and a South Side-based activist group called the Brown Berets. Protesters criticized the amount of time it took to charge Walczykowski, and that the charges weren’t more serious. Walczykowski was charged on Oct. 27, more than two weeks after the choking incident.
Milwaukee County Supervisor Juan Miguel Martinez was pleased to hear about the charges. “Unfortunately, it does not come as a surprise that these kinds of situations still occur in our city,” Martinez said in a statement. “There are three aspects of this video I would like to unequivocally condemn. First, the use of a chokehold in any form is thoroughly unacceptable. Second, acting aggressively toward a member of the Black community, and accusing them of a crime that they were allegedly near is an example of vigilantism and racism that is truly disgusting. Finally, assaulting a member of our community who has a disability is something that should never be tolerated.” The supervisor thanked District Attorney John Chisholm’s office for making “the correct decision in charging the man responsible for unlawfully detaining another citizen. I hope this encouraging trend continues in the future.”
The case comes amid a slew of other racially charged incidents in recent weeks. Just days ago, a mural of George Floyd in Milwaukee was vandalized. Days before that, the president of Kenosha’s NAACP found a flyer on his doorstep with an image of Senate candidate Mandela Barnes under the carass of a dead bird. White Lives Matter flyers were distributed in the Milwaukee County suburb of Greendale, and a man in West Allis was charged federally for targeting Black neighbors with threatening racist notes.
Waukesha County has seen an uptick in white supremacist activity, which has been linked to incidents in the city of Jefferson and elsewhere. Racist notes denouncing “Blacks and their lack of morals” were distributed in Wauwatosa during 2020 as well. A day before Walczykowski was filmed holding a mentally disabled Black man by the throat and accusing him of theft, police in Burlington announced they’ll be investigating racist threats made against a local activist. The note was perceived as a death threat and used anti-Black racial slurs.
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