Jacob Blake Himself Blows Up ‘Unarmed’ Media Narrative

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In his first television interview since being shot in the back by police, Jacob Blake admitted that he not only had a knife in his possession at the time of the shooting, but also “dropped” it before picking it up again.

“I realized I had dropped my knife, had a little pocket knife. So I picked it up after I got off of him because they tased me and I fell on top of him,” Blake told Michael Strahan in an interview that aired Thursday on ABC’s Good Morning America (GMA).

“I shouldn’t have picked it up, only considering what was going on,” he continued. “At that time, I wasn’t thinking clearly.” Earlier this month, Kenosha County district attorney Michael Graveley said that he would not file charges against Officer Rusten Sheskey, who shot Blake seven times, given that the officer was acting in self-defense against an armed assailant. Blake also had a past arrest for resisting police with a knife.

Blake’s admission contradicts past statements from his family and attorneys, who denied that he had a knife in his possession when police shot him on August 23, in an incident that stemmed from a 911 call made by the mother of Blake’s children, who told police that Blake was trying to drive away in her rental car with two of his sons.

“My son didn’t have a weapon,” Blake’s father told the Chicago Sun-Times for an August 25 story. Patrick Salvi Jr., an attorney for the Blake family, told CNN on August 26 that Blake did not have a knife in the car. “Witnesses confirm that he was not in possession of a knife and didn’t threaten officers in any way,” Blake’s attorney, Ben Crump, said in a statement released on August 27.

At the time, Blake had a warrant out for his arrest on charges of trespassing, disorderly conduct, and third-degree sexual assault, which the operator relayed to the responding officers. With the outstanding felony charges, police were required by law to take Blake into custody.

In the interview with GMA, Blake also claimed that “I hadn’t done anything so I didn’t feel like they were there for me,” though investigators later found that, prior to the arrest, Blake had looked up his own warrant on a police website and had sent a text mentioning the warrant. ABC made no mention of either fact in the interview.

The shooting went viral on social media after being recorded on video, showing officers screaming at Blake to “drop the knife.” In the subsequent days — which included deadly violence, rioting, and looting — the Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation revealed that Blake admitted to having “a knife in his possession.” But much of the mainstream press ran with the initial claim that he was “unarmed.”

“Wisconsin’s governor on Monday called in the National Guard to help quell unrest after police shot an unarmed Black man in the latest incident this summer to stir cries of injustice and divide a nation over the urgency of bringing fundamental change to law enforcement,” read the lede of five-person Washington Post byline on August 24. Earlier this month, the Post drew pushback after it maintained the “unarmed” description of Blake in reporting the decision by authorities to not pursue police charges. Though the paper did correct the narrative, one story published January 5 still refers to Blake as “unarmed.” (Update: the story has now been “corrected” by the paper, though it reads “[w]hile his family has said he was not armed when shot by police, prosecutors said video evidence depicts him holding a knife,” failing to note that Blake himself has now admitted to having one.)

The Post did not return a request for comment on the discrepancy.

In the days after the shooting, CNN ran multiple articles describing Blake as “unarmed” which have yet to be corrected. “Video shows police shoot unarmed Black man” is a current link to an August 24 segment hosted by CNN anchor Jake Tapper.

An August 28 USA Today “fact check” titled “Jacob Blake did not ‘brandish’ knife, get gun before Kenosha police shooting” argued that “Blake was not ‘brandishing’ anything in the video taken by bystanders,” even as it noted that the clip “shows something in Blake’s hand, but the resolution is low, so it could be a knife.”

But rather than issue a correction or a retraction on January 5, PolitiFact merely updated the post with an editor’s note stating that prosecutors had revealed “Blake was armed with a ‘razor blade-type knife’ when he was shot by police.”

The explanation? “That does not affect the rating for this item because ratings are based on what is known at the time.” In other words, it used to be true.

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