After an evening of unrest over the police shooting of Jacob Blake, Wisconsin authorities vowed that “justice will be served” as the city of Kenosha imposed a curfew and the governor called in the National Guard.
A video of the shooting that was recorded by a bystander appears to show a Kenosha police officer shooting the Black 29-year-old several times at point-blank range as he tried to get into a van with his children. Immediately after the video was posted on social media, protesters took to the streets in outrage, with some setting fires and vandalizing parts of the city.
“Justice will be served and people will be held responsible for their actions, and we will get to the truth,” Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian insisted during a Monday press conference.” We need to listen to each other…Right now, I’m afraid we’re having trouble doing that.”
The unrest continued into Monday, as dozens of angry residents tried to force their way into the city’s safety building before a scheduled press conference, knocking a door off its hinges before officers in tactical gear flooded the area and unleashed pepper spray on the crowd. Anticipating further protests on Monday evening, Antaramian confirmed the Wisconsin National Guard has been deployed to Kenosha and a citywide curfew has been enacted starting at 8 p.m.
Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul said Monday the state’s Justice Department is “vigorously” investigating the shooting—which occurred just three months after the grisly police killing of George Floyd—and “will unwaveringly pursue justice.” Kaul, however, said the DOJ is not yet releasing the identity or number of officers involved in the incident. He added that while the police have dash cams, the officers involved do not wear body cameras.
“We are going to vigorously and fully investigate the facts in this case,” Kaul said, before refusing to confirm whether Blake was armed during the encounter. The Kenosha County District Attorney also stressed Monday that possible charges in the case will come “as soon as possible.”
The Kenosha Police Department has released few details about the incident, but noted officers were responding to a domestic incident at 5:11 p.m. on Sunday before they “were involved in an officer-involved shooting.” In the video, Blake can be seen walking to his car while being followed by two officers with their guns drawn. When he went to open the driver’s side door, one officer grabbed his shirt, while the other fired at least seven shots into Blake’s back. Blake’s then seen slumped over the steering wheel.
“Jacob Blake was shot in the back seven times in front of his children. And let me be clear, this was not an accident. This wasn’t bad police work. This felt like some sort of vendetta being taken out on a member of our community,” Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, the state’s first Black lieutenant governor, said in a Monday morning press conference. “The officer’s deadly actions attempted to take a person’s life in broad daylight.”
Authorities confirmed that Blake was taken to Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee. Civil-rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who is representing the Blake family, said Monday that Blake’s three sons were in the car when he was shot and that the 29-year-old is in stable condition in the ICU. The lawyer added that Blake’s prognosis remains unclear.
“Blake was helping to deescalate a domestic incident when police drew their weapons and tasered him. As he was walking away to check on his children, police fired their weapons several times into his back at point-blank range. Blake’s three sons were only a few feet away and witnessed police shoot their father,” Crump said in a Monday statement. “Their irresponsible, reckless, and inhumane actions nearly cost the life of a man who was simply trying to do the right thing by intervening in a domestic incident. It’s a miracle he’s still alive.”
While the officers involved in the incident have been placed on administrative leave, anger quickly boiled over in Kenosha. Videos on social media showed garbage trucks on fire, protesters smashing windows, and local media reports indicated police vehicles were also being destroyed. Police officers in riot gear responded with force, throwing tear gas canisters at protesters to get them to back up.
On Monday, protesters gathered in the neighborhood where the shooting occurred and marched toward the county courthouse. According to local reports, some protesters held signs proclaiming “Black Lives Matter” and “No Justice No Peace.”
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers also on Monday called for a special legislative session to take action on several bills aimed at reducing police brutality in the state, including a ban on police chokeholds and no-knock search warrants. Continuing to condemn Blake’s shooting, Evers added the bill package, introduced this summer, is meant to bolster transparency and accountability in law enforcement with “common-sense policies” that “put the lives of Black Wisconsinites above politics.”
“We know that we can’t remedy the white supremacy and systemic racism that is built into all of our systems in just a couple years or with any package of legislation, but that doesn’t mean we don’t act. It doesn’t mean we stand still,” Barnes added.
The Kenosha Professional Police Association, however, defended the officers involved in Sunday’s incident, calling Evers’ decision to condem law enforcement “wholly irresponsible.”
“As always, the video currently circulating does not capture all the intricacies of a highly dynamic incident,” Pete Deates, the union’s president, said in the statement. “We ask that you withhold from passing judgement until all the facts are known and released.”