Saturday, October 31, 2020

National Guard is called to Kenosha after Wisconsin officers shoot Black man in back

Aug 25. 2020
Demonstrators protest the shooting of Jacob Blake on Monday, Aug. 24, 2020, in Kenosha, Wis. Police officers shot Blake in the back on Sunday. CREDIT: Photo for The Washington Post by Joshua Lott
Demonstrators protest the shooting of Jacob Blake on Monday, Aug. 24, 2020, in Kenosha, Wis. Police officers shot Blake in the back on Sunday. CREDIT: Photo for The Washington Post by Joshua Lott
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By The Washington Post · Jaclyn Peiser, Mark Berman, Mark Guarino · NATIONAL, COURTSLAW, RACE 

The video starts as Jacob Blake rounds the front of a silver SUV on Sunday, with two Kenosha, Wis., police officers following close behind, their guns drawn. When Blake opens the door and steps inside, the officers suddenly fire toward his back - at least seven times.

Blake is in serious condition, the officers have been placed on administrative leave, and the city of Kenosha declared emergency curfews after protests rocked the city into early Monday morning. Another curfew was set for Monday night, while the governor announced that he had called in the National Guard.

The video footage quickly spread online. It comes as the country has faced months-long protests spurred by George Floyd's death in custody in Minneapolis, setting off the wave of demonstrations against police brutality and for racial justice.

Democratic Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers called for greater police accountability.

"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," Evers said in a statement. "We stand with all those who have and continue to demand justice, equity, and accountability for Black lives in our country."

The Kenosha shooting made the lakefront city of about 100,000 residents the new epicenter of a movement that has roiled America this summer, ever since the video footage of Floyd, pinned beneath a Minneapolis police officer's knee and pleading for air, circulated on Memorial Day.

Since then, cities from coast to coast have seen their streets filled with demonstrations, which in some cases have given way to violence and property damage. Activists have called for cities to cut funding to police departments, among other changes. Some officials have vowed to push through reforms, while others - including President Donald Trump and his conservative allies - have pushed back, arguing that police are facing unfair criticism.

Former vice president Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, said in a statement that the country "wakes up yet again with grief and outrage that yet another Black American is a victim of excessive force."

"This calls for an immediate, full and transparent investigation and the officers must be held accountable," Biden said. "These shots pierce the soul of our nation."

On Monday, Evers signed an executive order calling the Wisconsin legislature into a special session for Aug. 31 to focus on law enforcement uses of force and training, among other issues. In a news briefing, Evers called on people who demonstrate to "please do so peacefully" and asked them to wear masks and try to maintain social distancing, given the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The governor also said Monday that he was having the Wisconsin National Guard head to Kenosha at what his office said was the request of local authorities. Evers called this "a limited mobilization" aimed at helping local first responders "protect critical infrastructure, such as utilities and fire stations."

Republican State Rep. Jim Steineke, who is majority leader in the Wisconsin State Assembly, urged other "elected officials to resist the temptation to rush to judgment" after the shooting, saying that "politicians' statements or actions . . . can stoke flames of violence."

"Any protests that occur must be peaceful," he said in a statement. "Violence begets violence and does nothing to further any cause. While the wheels of justice turn slowly, justice itself is what everyone deserves and cannot be prejudged or predetermined."

The shooting in Kenosha, a city located between Milwaukee and Chicago, occurred after 5 p.m. Sunday when officers responded to a domestic incident, police said. Video shows neighbors congregated outside as two officers with their guns drawn followed Blake as he approached the car. As Blake opened the driver's side door, an officer can be seen tugging at Blake's white tank top before multiple shots ring out from the police.

Benjamin Crump, a civil rights lawyer who has represented the families of many people fatally shot by police, said Monday that he had been retained by Blake's family.

Crump said in a statement that Blake's "three sons witnessed their father collapse after being riddled with bullets." According to Crump, Blake was "simply trying to do the right thing by intervening in a domestic incident," and he did not elaborate on what that entailed.

"It's a miracle he's still alive," Crump said.

Police have not commented on what led to the shooting. By Monday afternoon, nearly a full day after the shooting, public officials had only released scant details of what had happened, even as video footage from the incident had spread widely and drawn national scrutiny.

Stella London, who lives in the area, and her daughters said Monday that they think Blake was breaking up a fight between two women over a scratch on one of their cars and police just "assumed" he was a problem.

"It all came from a scratched vehicle. It's just so sad," said Sheila Winters, 65.

The women worry that if Blake does not survive, their city will become consumed by violence.

Blake was attending his 3-year-old son's birthday party on the lawn of his apartment building, according to Marie, a 23-year-old who said she watched what happened and spoke on the condition that her last name not be used.

At some point, Marie said, an argument began between two women. When a police officer approached, Blake was standing near the car in the street and one of the women directed police toward him, Marie said.

The officer "didn't ask questions, he just grabbed" Blake, Marie said, and tried to use a Taser to stun him, which did not work. Then Blake walked to the front of the car, she said, and was shot by police. 

After the shooting, Marie said, the women who were arguing blamed each other for the police arriving.

"He was a cool neighbor," Marie said of Blake. "He was polite. Even if he had a problem with you."

The Kenosha police and the Wisconsin Department of Justice did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment about Marie's account.

The Wisconsin Department of Justice is investigating the shooting, officials said. Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul said Monday that the department's role is to independently investigate the shooting, pledging to "vigorously and fully investigate" what happened.

At a news briefing, Kaul said his agency would not make a decision about whether charges will be filed. Instead, that will be determined by the Kenosha County district attorney, Kaul said, adding that the state agency and the local prosecutor's office will work closely together. The district attorney's office did not respond to a message seeking comment about the investigation.

"We understand that there is a need for this investigation to move swiftly, and our goal is to move swiftly," Kaul said at the briefing.

Kaul avoided offering specifics on the shooting, declining to say whether Blake was armed or how many officers might be under investigation. He said more details would be released in the days ahead.

Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian said at the briefing that the city's police force does not have body cameras and is expected to get them in 2022.

When asked about Blake's condition, Kaul said he was "only aware of what has been disclosed publicly, which is that he's in serious condition." In a statement earlier Monday, Kaul had said he hoped "for a full recovery for the man fighting for his life."

Blake was taken by helicopter to Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee, police said. The hospital declined to comment.

As footage of Blake's shooting spread Sunday on social media, a crowd gathered at the intersection where he was shot. Tensions quickly rose as more police officers arrived in riot gear, and several police cars were damaged. A video shows one officer being hit with a brick and collapsing.

The group eventually moved away from the intersection. A live stream of a march through Kenosha showed hundreds congregating and chanting outside the Kenosha County Public Safety Building after 10 p.m.

Shortly afterward, the city declared a state of emergency and instituted an overnight curfew. A public safety alert suggested that 24-hour businesses close "due to numerous armed robberies and shots fired calls."

Police soon arrived with riot gear and armed with rubber bullets, and eventually sprayed tear gas at the crowd. Some protesters targeted garbage trucks that had been parked to block traffic, shattering the truck's windows and setting them ablaze.

After midnight, the crowds moved toward the courthouse, and someone set a fire outside the building, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. Police put out the fire and launched more tear gas. Another live stream recorded people breaking into a nearby government building and shattering the glass doors and windows from the inside.

Just past 1 a.m., police requested that protesters leave the area, the Journal Sentinel reported, before firing more tear gas. About 20 minutes later, police formed a riot line and moved people away. Then, after 2 a.m., someone set fire to a car outside a dealership. By 2:40 a.m., smoke billowed toward the sky as car after car burst into flames. An hour later, the fire continued to spread, threatening to burn a church behind the dealership.

On Monday, Kenosha County announced another curfew, this one set to run from 8 p.m. Monday through 7 a.m. Tuesday. The curfew was set for the area east of Interstate 94, with police saying the public had "to be off the streets for their safety."

Video of Blake's shooting ignited widespread outrage and inspired a smaller protest in Madison. Julián Castro, a former San Antonio mayor and Democratic presidential candidate, questioned whether the police had considered "nonlethal methods."

"Why didn't officers physically restrain him? Or use their tasers? Or disable the vehicle?" Castro added.

Bernice King, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s daughter and the chief executive of the King Center, said on Twitter that she was dismayed to see another video of a Black person being "brutalized and/or gunned down by police."

"Anybody who doesn't believe we are beyond a state of emergency is choosing to lack empathy and awareness," King said.

 

 

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