(Photo: A solidarity protest Monday moves from the state capitol building to the UW-Madison campus.)
Yesterday, 29-year-old Jacob Blake of Kenosha was shot seven times in the back by a police officer. As of this morning, Blake was recovering in the Intensive Care Unit of Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee. His shooting – and the footage — has again sparked an outcry and pushed protesters, and elected officials, into action.
According to a police report, two officers were dispatched at 5:11 PM yesterday to a domestic disturbance call in the 2800 block of 40th street in Kenosha. According to the Kenosha News, 29-year-old Jacob Blake was breaking up a fight between two women when the officers arrived. In a video posted to social media, Blake can be seen walking away from the officers. He attempted to enter his vehicle as the police drew their weapons. As Blake opened the door and reached into his vehicle, one of the officers grabbed his shirt and, at close range, fired seven shots into Blake’s back.
According to the family’s attorney, Ben Crump, Blake’s three children were in the back seat when their father was shot.
Blake was transported to Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee via Flight For Life where he is recovering.
The officers who shot Blake have been placed on administrative leave. A Change.Org petition to charge and arrest the officers involved in the shooting has gathered more than 160,000 signatures. The Kenosha Police Department says the investigation of the officers has been handed off to the Wisconsin Department of Justice.
The DOJ’s Division of Criminal Investigation is heading up the investigation, in coordination with the Wisconsin State Patrol and the Kenosha County Sheriff’s Office. They plan to release a full report of the incident to the case’s prosecutor within the next thirty days. The incident report will be made available to the public if the prosecutor decides not to press charges against the involved officers.
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Kenosha police officers have killed at least four people since 2003. One of those cases, the fatal shooting of 21-year-old Michael Bell, Junior, resulted in a $1.75 million settlement between Bell’s family and the city.
Protests in Kenosha broke out as footage of the shooting continued to gain national attention. Protesters set garbage trucks and several businesses on fire. One video posted on social media shows a Kenosha Police officer being hit with a brick in the head.
Tonight, Governor Tony Evers has deployed about 125 members of the National Guard to Kenosha. City officials also announced a curfew for this evening, from 8 PM to 7 AM tomorrow.
Meanwhile, in Madison last night, a group of about fifty protesters assembled at the top of State Street. The group gave speeches and marched several blocks of State Street. A few protesters, but not all, smashed several business windows and property.
Police officers didn’t engage protesters and maintained their distance from the group. Another protest is planned for this evening at 10:30 at the Capitol.
In response to Blake’s shooting, Governor Tony Evers issued an Executive Order this afternoon, calling a special session of the Wisconsin Legislature to vote on a package of police reform bills. The session will convene at noon on August 31st. The nine proposed bills would, among other things, standardize use of force policies across the state, ban chokeholds and ban no-knock warrants.
“This is not the time for politics, I am urging Republican leadership to rise to this important moment in history, to put people before politics and to put lives of Black Wisconsinites above politics and to give this special session the urgent and productive effort this moment demands and that the people of Wisconsin deserve,” Evers said.
Meanwhile, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos today announced the creation of a task force on racial disparities, education, public safety, and police practices.
Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes, Wisconsin’s first black Lieutenant Governor, pointed out the irony that the officer shot a man who was attempting to deescalate a potentially violent situation.
“Let me be clear: this wasn’t an accident, this wasn’t bad police work, this felt like some sort of vendetta being taken out on a member of our community,” Barnes said. “The irony isn’t lost on me that as Jacob Blake was trying to deescalate a situation in his community, the responding officer didn’t feel the need to do the same. And now we all know Jacob Blake’s name.”