By: Mike Householder and Scott Bauer, Associated Press
Kenosha, WI (AP) — A Black man shot multiple times, apparently in the back, by police in Wisconsin is paralyzed from the waist down and has “eight holes” in his body, the father of victim Jacob Blake said.
The shooting in broad daylight on Sunday by police in Kenosha, captured on cellphone video that quickly spread on social media, ignited new protests over racial injustice. It comes three months after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police set off demonstrations around the United States and touched off a wider reckoning on race.
Blake’s father, also named Jacob Blake, told the Chicago Sun-Times in a story published Tuesday that he didn’t know if his 29-year-old son’s paralysis would be permanent. The older man was traveling from North Carolina to be with his son who was being treated in a Milwaukee hospital.
“I want to put my hand on my son’s cheek and kiss him on his forehead, and then I’ll be OK,” the father told the newspaper. “I’ll kiss him with my mask. The first thing I want to do is touch my son.”
Blake’s father said that he learned Sunday night that officers had shot his son eight times and shortly thereafter he watched the video, which appears to show his son being shot in the back.
Ben Crump, a civil rights attorney representing the Blake family, said three of Blake’s sons — aged 3, 5 and 8 — were in the car at the time of the shooting. Crump scheduled a Tuesday afternoon news conference in Kenosha with Blake’s family members to address the shooting.
The father has not returned multiple messages left by The Associated Press.
He is slated to speak at a March on Washington commemoration on Friday organized by the Rev. Al Sharpton.
His father and the victim’s grandfather, Jacob Blake Sr., was a prominent minister and civil rights leader in the Chicago area who helped organize a march and spoke in support of a comprehensive housing law in Evanston, Illinois, days after the 1968 slaying of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
The officers were placed on administrative leave, which is standard practice in such cases. Authorities released no details about the officers and did not immediately respond to requests for their service records.
Wisconsin is one of the most racially divided states in the country. While about 7% of the state’s population is Black, in Kenosha about 12% of residents are Black, based on 2019 Census data. Both the mayor and police chief are white.
Since the shooting, anger has spilled into the streets of Kenosha and other cities, including Wisconsin’s capital of Madison and in Minneapolis, the epicenter of the Black Lives Matter movement this summer following Floyd’s death.
Hundreds of protesters in Kenosha set fire to several buildings downtown on Monday night, including a furniture store and a community corrections building. They defied an 8 p.m. curfew and clashed with officers in riot gear, including 125 members of the Wisconsin National Guard, who deployed tear gas as they guarded the courthouse. Protesters set fire to cars and dumpsters, threw bottles and shot fireworks.
A city block was cordoned off Tuesday, so officials could survey damage. Several storefronts were badly damaged, including a computer store whose windows were broken. It appears merchandise was removed from its shelves. Smoke filled the air and visibility was low as firefighters used water cannons on the buildings.
“Nobody deserves this,” said Pat Oertle, owner of Computer Adventure, which was vandalized. “This accomplishes nothing. … This is not justice that they’re looking for. This is destroying things.”
Earlier on Monday, when Kenosha Mayor John Antarmian moved a news conference from a park to inside the public safety building, hundreds of protesters rushed to the building and a door was snapped off its hinges before police in riot gear pepper-sprayed the crowd.
In Madison, about 500 protesters marched to the state Capitol on Monday night, breaking windows, stealing from stores and spraying graffiti along the way. Police used tear gas and pepper spray on the crowds and six people were arrested, according to Madison police.
In Minneapolis, 11 were arrested after breaking windows at the county jail on Monday night. One police officer suffered a broken hand in an altercation with demonstrators, the sheriff’s department said.
Wisconsin Democratic Gov. Tony Evers was quick to condemn the shooting in Kenosha and on Monday called on the Republican-controlled Legislature to take up a package of police reform bills in a special session next week. But Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said instead he is creating a task force to study policing and racial injustice issues.
A Republican Wisconsin lawmaker said Evers and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, who is Black, did not do enough to quell the violence.
“They did not call for peace. They did not encourage calm,” state Sen. Howard Marklein said. “They did encourage people to jump to conclusions and take negative action. The governor needs to accept responsibility for this.”
Evers’ spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, citing other recent shootings of Black people by police, said: “Those shots pierce the soul of our nation.”
Police in Kenosha, a city of about 100,000 in between Milwaukee and Chicago, said they were responding to a call about a domestic dispute when they encountered Blake on Sunday.
The man who said he made the cellphone video, 22-year-old Raysean White, said he saw Blake scuffling with three officers and heard them yell, “Drop the knife! Drop the knife!” before the gunfire erupted. He said he didn’t see a knife in Blake’s hands.
In the footage, Blake walks from the sidewalk around the front of his SUV to his driver-side door as officers follow him with their guns pointed and shout at him. As Blake opens the door and leans into the SUV, an officer grabs his shirt from behind and opens fire while Blake has his back turned. Seven shots can be heard, though it isn’t clear how many struck Blake or how many officers fired.
Police did not say whether Blake was armed or why police opened fire, they released no details on the domestic dispute, and they did not immediately disclose the race of the three officers at the scene.
The Wisconsin Department of Justice is leading the investigation into the shooting, which is expected to take several weeks.
Bauer reported from Madison, Wisconsin. Associated Press reporters Todd Richmond in Madison, Wisconsin, Jeff Baenen in Minneapolis, Aaron Morrison in New York, and Tammy Webber in Fenton, Michigan, contributed.