Developing Story: Jacob Blake Shooting

What We Know:

  • WHERE: Kenosha is a suburb about 40 miles south of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and 90 miles north of Chicago, Illinois.
  • WHEN: On the evening of August 23, Kenosha police officers responded to a reported domestic incident.
  • WHAT: A cellphone video captured by a bystander shows Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old black man, being shot in the back numerous times by police as he entered the driver’s side of a vehicle.  Seven shots can be heard in the video. Police rendered aid to Blake at the scene before he was taken to a hospital.
  • WHO: A woman who can be seen shouting at police during the incident told a local news station that she and Blake’s three children were in vehicle when Blake was shot.
  • WHY:  The exact facts are still under investigation, but we learned more on August 26 (see below)
    • According to at least one witness, Blake had attempted to to break up a fight.
    • According to Wisconsin court records, there was an arrest warrant filed against Blake on July 7 on charges of criminal trespass to dwelling, disorderly conduct, and third-degree sexual assault in connection with a May 3 domestic abuse incident.  To date, it’s not clear if those charges are related to Sunday’s incident.

Blake remains in serious condition. The officers involved in the shooting have been place on administrative leave.

The Aftermath: 

Aug 23: Gov. Evers released a statement stating “While we do not have all of the details yet, what we know for certain is that he is not the first Black man or person to have been shot or injured or mercilessly killed at the hands of individuals in law enforcement in our state or our country.”

Aug 24:

  • The Milwaukee Police Association issued a press release accusing Gov. Evers of pushing a “false ideology” based on hunches rather than facts and disrespecting state law enforcement.
  • After a night of protests and civil unrest following the shooting which required a curfew and officers to deploy tear gas in order to disperse the crowds, Gov. Evers spoke publicly urging everyone to “rise to this movement and this moment and meet it with our empathy, our humanity and a fierce commitment to disrupt the cycle of systemic racism and bias that devastates Black families and communities.”
  • Gov. Evers also called in the Wisconsin National Guard to help local law enforcement deal with the civil unrest and called for the Wisconsin legislature to hold a special session in order to take up a package of police reform bills, stating that racism is a “public health crisis.” 

August 25:

  • Gov. Evers declared a state of emergency after a second night of civil unrest, including fires set by protesters and police firing tear gas, authorizing additional members of the Wisconsin National Guard to come in to aid local law enforcement.
  • The Blake family’s attorney Ben Crump said it will be a “miracle” if Blake is able to walk again.

August 26:

  • Police in Antioch, IL announced they arrested 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse in connection with a shooting that left two people dead and third wounded, which was captured on video during the third night of protests in Kenosha. Rittenhouse faces multiple counts of homicide and attempted homicide.
  • The NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks announced they would not play their in playoff game in order to call for justice for Jacob Blake.  Shortly afterwards, the NBA announced it was postponing all playoff games.
  • The FBI announced it is conducting a federal civil rights investigation into the shooting.

August 27:

  • The NBA further postponed the playoff games.  The MLB, MLS, and WNBA also postponed games.

August 28:

  • The Wisconsin Department of Justice’s Division of Criminal issued a press release, updating a press release issued a two days earlier, detailing  more information about what the investigation has uncovered so far:

Kenosha Police Department officers were dispatched to a residence in the 2800 block of 40th Street after a female caller reported that her boyfriend was present and was not supposed to be on the premises.

During the incident, officers attempted to arrest Jacob S. Blake, age 29. Law enforcement deployed a taser to attempt to stop Mr. Blake, however the taser was not successful in stopping Mr. Blake. Mr. Blake walked around his vehicle, opened the driver’s side door, and leaned forward. While holding onto Mr. Blake’s shirt, Officer Rusten Sheskey fired his service weapon 7 times. Officer Sheskey fired the weapon into Mr. Blake’s back. No other officer fired their weapon. Kenosha Police Department does not have body cameras, therefore the officers were not wearing body cameras.

The shooting officer, Kenosha Police Officer Rusten Sheskey, has been a law enforcement officer with Kenosha Police Department for seven years.

During the investigation following the initial incident, Mr. Blake admitted that he had a knife in his possession. DCI agents recovered a knife from the driver’s side floorboard of Mr. Blake’s vehicle. A search of the vehicle located no additional weapons.

Law enforcement immediately provided medical aid to Mr. Blake. Flight for Life transported Mr. Blake to Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee. Mr. Blake remains at the hospital.

  • The police union representing police officers in Kenosha released a statement offering a different version of what it says are the  “actual and undisputed facts” of what happened on August 23:
    • The officers were dispatched to the location due to a complaint that Mr. Blake was attempting to steal the caller’s keys/vehicle.
    • Officers were aware of Mr. Blake’s open warrant for felony sexual assault (3rd degree) before they arrived on scene.
    • Mr. Blake was not breaking up a fight between two females when officers arrived on scene.
    • The silver SUV seen in the widely circulated video was not Mr. Blake’s vehicle.
    • Mr. Blake was not unarmed. He was armed with a knife. The officers did not see the knife initially. The officers first saw him holding the knife while they were on the passenger side of the vehicle. The “main” video circulating on the internet shows Mr. Blake with the knife in his left hand when he rounds the front of the car. The officers issued repeated commands for Mr. Blake to drop the knife. He did not comply.
    • The officers initially tried to speak with Mr. Blake, but he was uncooperative.
    • The officers then began issuing verbal commands to Mr. Blake, but he was non-complaint.
    • The officers next went “hands-on” with Mr. Blake, so as to gain compliance and control.
    • Mr. Blake actively resisted the officers’ attempt to gain compliance.
    • The officers then disengaged and drew their tasers, issuing commands to Mr. Blake that he would be tased if he did not comply.
    • Based on his non-compliance, one officer tased Mr. Blake. The taser did not incapacitate Mr. Blake.
    • The officers once more went “hands-on” with Mr. Blake; again, trying to gain control of the escalating situation.
    • Mr. Blake forcefully fought with the officers, including putting one of the officers in a headlock.
    • A second taser (from a different officer than had deployed the initial taser) was then deployed on Mr. Blake. It did not appear to have any impact on him.
    • Based on the inability to gain compliance and control after using verbal, physical and less lethal means, the officers drew their firearms.
    • Mr. Blake continued to ignore the officers’ commands, even with the threat of lethal force now present.

September 1:

  • Pres. Trump and Attorney General William Barr visited Kenosha. The President delivered remarks during a Wisconsin Community Safety Roundtable with local community and business leaders.

September 4:

  • A live-streamed hearing was held in the case against Blake on charges of criminal trespass to dwelling, disorderly conduct, and third-degree sexual assault in connection with a May 3 domestic abuse incident. Blake appeared from his hospital bed, and his lawyer, Patrick Cafferty, entered not guilty pleas for all three charge
    • A pretrial conference was scheduled for Oct. 21.

September 5:

  • Blake’s attorney, Benjamin Crump, posted a minute-long video to Twitter of Blake speaking from his hospital bed. (WARNING: mild profanity)

 

What’s Next:

  • The Wisconsin Department of Justice‘s Division of Criminal Investigation is investigating the officer involved shooting, with assistance from the Wisconsin State Patrol and Kenosha County Sheriff’s Office, and will deliver a report to the prosecutor who will then decide what, if any, criminal charges should be filed.
    • If no charges are filed the Wisconsin Department of Justice’s report will become public.
  • The FBI is also conducting a parallel federal civil rights investigation into the shooting in cooperation with the Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation and other state authorities.