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Answers sought in Jacob Blake shooting by police in Wisconsin: Unarmed man 'was walking away,' lawyer says

Crystal Hill
·Reporter
·5 min read
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Many questions remained unanswered Monday afternoon, the day after Kenosha, Wis., police officers opened fire on an unarmed Black man as he opened the door to his car on Sunday evening, firing at least seven shots into his back while his three children were inside the vehicle, according to civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who represents the man and his family.

The man, identified by Crump and media reports as Jacob Blake, is in stable condition in a Milwaukee hospital, said Crump. The shooting has drawn condemnation from former Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro, Democratic Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, and led to a violent protest in Kenosha. On Monday, Evers called out the National Guard to keep order in the city.

Blake’s family is “devastated,” Crump told Yahoo News. “You can only imagine the psychological trauma his children are going to have.”

The shooting occurred after police responded to a domestic incident sometime after 5 p.m., the department said in a news release Sunday. The precise time was unspecified, but video shows it was in daylight. A clip posted to Twitter shows Blake walking to the driver’s side of an SUV with two officers, including one who has a firearm pointed at Blake’s back, following closely behind.

An officer appears to pull at Blake as he opens the door. Then one officer shoots Blake in the back. The second officer appears to shoot too, the video shows. Screams can be heard in the background.

“We see on the video that they did not deescalate the situation,” Crump told Yahoo News. “It seems like they escalated it. And it’s just shocking that you see them shooting all those shots at Mr. Blake, who seems to be walking away from them. He didn’t seem to be posing a threat to them at all.”

A man confronts police outside the Kenosha Police Department in Kenosha, Wisconsin, U.S., during protests following the police shooting of Black man Jacob Blake on Aug. 23, 2020. (Mike De Sisti/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via USA TODAY via REUTERS)
A man confronts police outside the police department in Kenosha, Wis., during protests following the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, on Sunday. (Mike De Sisti/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via USA Today via Reuters)

What led to the shooting is unclear. It’s also unclear why officers had their guns drawn on Blake and why he was walking toward the vehicle. Kenosha police have not commented on the shooting beyond Sunday’s release. Yahoo News reached out to the department for additional information.

Crump acknowledged that much is unknown about the shooting. “I’ll be getting into Wisconsin tonight,” he said on Monday afternoon, “and from there we hope to get more answers. The family is outraged, and they are demanding that the officer who shot [Blake] in the back be immediately terminated.”

Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul said the officers involved have been placed on administrative leave. The Wisconsin Department of Justice is leading the investigation, Kaul said in a statement.

“When DCI [Division of Criminal Investigation] is the lead investigating agency of a shooting involving a law enforcement officer,” the statement said, “DCI aims to provide a report of the incident to the prosecutor within 30 days. The prosecutor then reviews the report and makes a determination about what charges, if any, are appropriate. If the prosecutor determines there is no basis for prosecution of the law enforcement officer, DCI will thereafter make the report available to the public.”

The president of the local police union said the video doesn’t tell the whole story.

“As always, the video currently circulating does not capture all the intricacies of a highly dynamic incident,” Pete Deates, president of the Kenosha police union, said in a statement to the Associated Press.

The shooting of Blake led to a protest in Kenosha, a city south of Milwaukee, during which protesters confronted officers, set cars on fire and smashed windows, the AP reported. The city set a curfew until 7 a.m. Monday and advised 24-hour businesses to close. Another curfew will start at 8 p.m. Monday and last until 7 a.m. Tuesday.

Garbage and dump trucks were set ablaze on Sunday, Aug. 23, 2020 by rioters near the Kenosha County Courthouse where they had been set up to prevent damage to the building. The building was still damaged and was closed on Monday. (Sean Krajacic/Kenosha News via AP)
Garbage and dump trucks were set ablaze on Sunday by rioters near the Kenosha County Courthouse, where they had been set up to prevent damage to the building. Still, the structure was damaged and was closed on Monday. (Sean Krajacic/Kenosha News via AP)

The shooting comes as the nation remains embroiled in racial unrest after the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others, and amid emotionally charged calls in many U.S. cities to rethink how the police function and operate in society.

Crump said city officials need to take steps to calm the community. “That is all on the leadership of Kenosha,” he said. “If they provide transparency and accountability, then I think people will accept due process of the law — they will accept equal justice. But if they try to justify this unjustifiable shooting, in front of Blake’s three young boys, then I think protesters have every right to express their righteous anger in the form of their First Amendment rights.”

The chief concern of Crump and Blake’s family, the attorney said, is Blake’s survival.

“We want to make sure that Jacob Blake survives — that he doesn’t succumb to this shooting. So right now the main concern is the health and welfare of him and his family.”

Thumbnail credit: Courtesy of Benjamin Crump

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