Kenosha Police Shot Jacob Blake As He Walked To His Automotive
The Wisconsin Governor dispatched the National Guard to the city of Kenosha on Monday, where police shot and killed a black man from behind as he walked to his car on Sunday evening and sparked overnight protests.
In an incident filmed and shared on social media, 29-year-old Jacob Blake is seen walking away from several police officers. When he opens the car door, an officer grabs his shirt and shoots him several times.
Blake is in serious condition in a Milwaukee hospital, according to a statement tweeted by the Kenosha Police Department. Officials were on hand in response to a “domestic incident,” police added.
Blake’s family members have said on social media that he is not undergoing surgery and is in stable condition.
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump said Blake’s three sons were “meters away” at the time of the shooting.
“Jacob Blake was shot in the back seven times in front of his children,” said Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes in a press conference on Monday. “This wasn’t an accident. This wasn’t bad policing. It felt like some kind of revenge was being carried out on a member of our community. The officer’s fatal actions attempted to take someone’s life in broad daylight.”
Governor Tony Evers announced that 125 National Guard members would be dispatched to Kenosha County by Monday evening to “assist local law enforcement” after the shooting sparked overnight demonstrations in which police used tear gas against protesters.
“Each person should be able to express their anger and frustration by exercising their initial adjustment rights and reporting on these calls to action without fear of being unsafe,” Evers said in a statement.
He added that this was a “limited National Guard mobilization” focused on protecting critical infrastructure and ensuring the “safe gathering of Kenoshians”.
Kenosha County declared a curfew on Monday and ordered the public to “get off the streets for their safety” from 8 pm to 7 am on Tuesday.
The officers involved in the shooting have been taken on administrative leave but have not yet been identified by the officers.
The Wisconsin Justice Department said its criminal investigation department will investigate the shooting.
“The Wisconsin Justice Department is intensively and thoroughly investigating yesterday’s shooting in Kenosha,” Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul said in a statement. “I hope for a full recovery of the man who is fighting for his life.”
Kaul added that the DOJ will work closely with the Kenosha County Prosecutor’s Office, who will make the decision on whether to prosecute the case.
In a tweet, a man identified as Blake’s cousin said Blake was in intensive care.
“We will not apologize for the actions of the Kenosha Police Department, but his mother is asking everyone to please keep peaceful,” said his cousin.
Jacob has not had an operation and is in intensive care. We will keep praying while he fights. We will not apologize for the actions of the Kenosha Police Department, but his mother is asking everyone to please keep peaceful.
06:57 – August 24, 2020
“No matter what the hell they say, it doesn’t justify shooting my son eight times in the back,” said his father Jacob Blake III in an Instagram video.
Blake’s aunt shared her reaction to the video on Facebook, saying, “My nephew. I’m shaking like a leaf, but … I would be for anyone I’ve never seen in all of my years as a criminal defense lawyer. Don’t … even … nearby. They … wouldn’t shoot a dog like this. My people are despised in police stations across the country. “
Following the shootings on Sunday, Evers said: “We stand against excessive use of force and immediate escalation in our cooperation with Black Wisconsinites” and promised action. On Monday, Evers announced a special session of the legislature due to convene on August 31st to include a package of legislation he had previously proposed “to increase accountability and transparency in policing in Wisconsin.”
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden called for an “immediate, full and transparent investigation” and the accountability of police officers.
“Yesterday in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Jacob Blake was shot seven times in the back when police tried to prevent him from getting into his car. His children watched from the car and onlookers watched in disbelief. And this morning watch the nation is still on again with grief and outrage that another black American has fallen victim to excessive violence, “Biden said in a statement. “These shots pierce the soul of our nation.”
Mike De Sisti / Reuters
Police in riot gear confront protesters outside the Kenosha Police Department.
People started protesting in Kenosha on Sunday evening and a curfew was imposed until 7 a.m. Kenosha police said they had received numerous phone calls about armed robbery and shootings. According to the Associated Press, police used tear gas on protesters who did not leave after the curfew was announced.
In a series of tweets in response to the shooting, Milwaukee County’s executive David Crowley said, “As a father of young black children, I understand the urgency in which color communities are calling for change.”
In a statement to BuzzFeed News, Crowley criticized the “systemic racism” enshrined in state and local institutions.
“Make no mistake, Blake’s wounds are the result of systemic racism, the policies and practices that involve our institutions and produce racially diverse outcomes, regardless of the intentions of the people who work in them,” the statement said.
Crowley urged state and local politicians to “follow the example of Milwaukee County and declare racism a public health crisis.”
“We need to listen to people’s voices and take action to prevent the unnecessary loss of black lives by police,” Crowley said in a tweet. “I stand with my brothers and sisters who stand up for black lives and make their voices heard.”
The events in Kenosha on Sunday evening were reminiscent of events in other cities where police shot black men and protests against Black Lives Matter emerged. Major protests took place in nearby Milwaukee, just over 30 miles north of Kenosha, in 2016 after a police officer shot and killed Sylville Smith, a 23-year-old black man. The policeman was charged but acquitted in court.
Wisconsin has often been cited as the worst state for black Americans, with the biggest gap between unemployment, income, home ownership, and educational outcomes of its black and white citizens.
The majority of Black Wisconsin residents live in Milwaukee, Racine, and Kenosha.
“They live mostly in black, segregated, heavily police-force communities,” Katherine Hilson, assistant professor of sociology and criminal justice at Carthage College in Kenosha, told BuzzFeed News. “Lots of people have unsolicited, repeated, and regular contact with the police, and incidents like the one we saw with Jacob Blake yesterday, undermine community members’ trust in the police.”
In June 2019, 18-year-old Ty Rese West was shot dead by a police officer in Mount Pleasant, less than 15 miles from Kenosha. The officer hunted west at 1:30 a.m. because he had no lights on his bike. There was no video of the incident and the officer was not charged.
This April, an off duty Milwaukee police officer put Joel Acevedo, 25, in a stranglehold for 10 minutes after a party during a dispute at the officer’s home. Acevedo died of injuries a few days later, and officer Michael Mattioli was charged with reckless first degree murder. He’s still on the police payroll.
Hilson noted that Kensoha’s protests are fueled not only by frustrations surrounding the shooting of Blake or other incidents of police brutality.
“When you see the riots, the protests and the riots – and I use these words especially in contrast to something like a riot that seems completely uncontrolled and pointless – people react to real things,” said Hilson.
“They don’t just react to episodic events, which are tragic in themselves,” added the professor. “But they react to underemployment, unemployment, live in poor conditions, go and send children to below-average schools, and are exposed to regular police contacts that are often intrusive and dehumanizing.”
August 24, 2020, 1:13 p.m.
Correction: Tony Evers is the governor of Wisconsin. The state was misidentified in an earlier version of this article.
August 24, 2020, 10:13 p.m.
Correction: The city of Racine, Wisconsin was misspelled in an earlier version of this post.