Update, January 5, 2021: Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley announced on Tuesday that Rusten Sheskey, the police officer who shot Jacob Blake seven times in the back this past August, will not face charges. The two other officers involved, Vincent Arenas and Brittany Meronek, will also not face charges, per CNN.
The New York Times reported that, in announcing his decision, Graveley said: "I feel in many ways completely inadequate for this moment. I have never in my life had a moment where I’ve had to contend with explicit or implicit bias based on my race. I have never had a moment in my life where I’ve had to fear for my safety either with police officers or people in authority." According to the Times, investigators reviewed 40 hours of video and hundreds of pages of police reports; Sheskey previously told investigators that he shot Blake because he believed Blake was trying to kidnap a child in his vehicle.
Ben Crump, one of Blake's attorneys, responded to the news on Twitter, writing: "We are immensely disappointed and feel this decision failed not only Jacob and his family but the community that protested and demanded justice. This isn't the news we hoped for, but our work is not done and hope is not lost. We must broaden the fight for justice on behalf of Jacob Blake and the countless other Black victims of racial injustice and police brutality. #JusticeForJacobBlake"
He continued, "We will continue to press forward with our own investigation and fight for systemic change in policing and transparency at all levels. We urge Americans to continue to raise their voices and demand change in peaceful and positive ways during this emotional time."
Original post: After months of non-stop Black Lives Matter protests and calls to defund the police, people are demanding justice for Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man police shot in the back by police on Sunday night. Blake is recovering in the hospital, but his father, Jacob Blake Sr., told the Chicago Sun-Times on Tuesday that his son is paralyzed from the waist down. Doctors have not determined whether the injury is permanent, according to the paper. Lawyers for Blake told CNN Wednesday that it'll "take a miracle" for him to walk again. They plan to file a civil lawsuit against the Kenosha Police Department, the network reported.
Here's what you need to know and how you can help.
What happened on August 23rd?
On Sunday evening, police were responding to a "domestic incident" in Kenosha, WI, when they shot a man identified as Jacob Blake in the back several times. A Wednesday report from the Wisconsin Department of Justice, which will investigate the shooting with the FBI, said officers attempted to stop Blake with a taser to no avail. Per the report, Blake then "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." No other officers reportedly fired their weapons, per the Wisconsin DOJ, and none of the officers were wearing body cameras. In the investigation following the shooting, Blake admitted to possessing a knife. No other weapons were found, per the report.
Earlier this week, it was reported that Blake was in serious condition at Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee. Members of Blake's family have said on social media that he is out of surgery and in stable condition, per BuzzFeed News. His father told the Chicago Sun-Times that his son's body has eight bullet holes and that he's currently paralyzed from the waist down.
“What justified all those shots?” his father told the outlet. “What justified doing that in front of my grandsons? What are we doing?”
Doctors don't yet know if Blake's injury will be permanent. His father said the 29-year-old was preparing to celebrate his son's eighth birthday on Sunday. “Those police officers that shot my son like a dog in the street are responsible for everything that has happened in the city of Kenosha,” he said. “My son is not responsible for it. My son didn’t have a weapon. He didn’t have a gun.”
One of Blake's lawyers, Benjamin Crump said, "It's going to take a miracle for Jacob Blake Jr. to ever walk again," per CNN. Blake reportedly sustained multiple injuries, including a gunshot wound to one arm, damage to his kidney, liver, and spinal cord, and the removal of his colon and small intestines.
The Wisconsin Department of Justice's Division of Criminal Investigation has said the officers involved have been put on administrative leave. Sheskey, who's been with the department for seven years, is so far the only officer who has been identified.
A video of the incident has been circulating across social media. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that, in the video, a man in a white shirt walks over to a van while being followed by two police officers who have their weapons drawn. When the man opens the door of the van to get in, an officer grabs his shirt and then "appears to shoot him in the back at close range" as seven shots are heard. "The video does not show what happened before the man walked away from the officers, nor what was said, if anything."
This is 29-year-old Jacob Blake who was shot by Kenosha police. His fiancé shared this picture with us. pic.twitter.com/6Si9lkCPFu
— Sarah Thamer (@SarahThamerNews) August 24, 2020
Kenosha News reported that, following the shooting, several people who were gathered nearby said Blake was "trying to break up a verbal altercation between two women shortly after 5 p.m." The outlet also reported, "At least a half dozen witnesses said that the man had tried to break up a fight between the two women outside a home at 2805 40th St. and that police had attempted to use a Taser on the man prior to the shooting."
Late on Sunday evening, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers tweeted a statement, writing: "Tonight, Jacob Blake was shot in the back multiple times, in broad daylight, in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Kathy and I join his family, friends, and neighbors in hoping earnestly that he will not succumb to his injuries. 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." He continued, "I have said all along that although we must offer our empathy, equally important is our action. In the coming days, we will demand just that of elected officials in our state who have failed to recognize the racism in our state and our country for far too long."
Tonight, Jacob Blake was shot in the back multiple times, in broad daylight, in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Kathy and I join his family, friends, and neighbors in hoping earnestly that he will not succumb to his injuries.
— Governor Tony Evers (@GovEvers) August 24, 2020
What happens next?
The Wisconsin Attorney General said in a statement on Monday that the Wisconsin Department of Justice's Division of Criminal Investigation is investigating the shooting. The statement says, “DCI is leading this investigation and is assisted by Wisconsin State Patrol and Kenosha County Sheriff’s Office. All involved law enforcement are fully cooperating with DCI during this investigation. The involved officers have been placed on administrative leave.” The statement also said DCI is aiming to provide a report of the incident to a prosecutor within 30 days. The DCI will be assisted by the FBI, as well as the aforementioned State Patrol and Kenosha County Sheriff's Office, according to a new statement.
According to CNN, U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr was set to give a briefing on Blake's shooting during a scheduled visit to the White House on Monday. White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows reportedly said, "From what I was briefed on, obviously, the video tells a story that's troubling."
President Donald Trump has not directly commented on the shooting, but tweeted on Wednesday: "TODAY, I will be sending federal law enforcement and the National Guard to Kenosha, WI to restore LAW and ORDER!" During his Wednesday night address at the Republican National Convention, Vice President Mike Pence didn't mention Blake by name, but swore that rioters and looters would "be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. No one from the administration has addressed reports that Kyle Rittenhouse, an Illinois 17-year-old charged with fatally shooting two protesters in the wake of Blake's death, appears to have attended one of Trump's rallies earlier this year.
During a press conference on Tuesday, Blake's family and legal team spoke about their hopes for the future following the shooting. Letetra Widman, Blake's sister, asked people to remember her brother as a loving father, son, cousin, uncle, and human:
"I am my brother’s keeper. And when you say the name Jacob Blake, make sure you say father. Make sure you say cousin. Make sure you say son. Make sure you say uncle. But most importantly, make sure you say human. Human life. Let it marinate in your mouth, in your mind. And human life, just like every single one of y’all…we’re human. And his life matters. So many people have reached out to me telling me they’re sorry this happened to my family. Well, don't be sorry, ‘cause this has been happening to my family for a long time. Longer than I can account for. It happened to Emmett Till. Emmett Till is my family. Philando [Castile]. Mike Brown. Sandra [Bland]. This has been happening to my family, and I’ve shed tears for every single one of these people that it’s happened to. This is nothing new. I'm not sad. I'm not sorry. I'm angry, and I'm tired. I haven’t cried one time. I stopped crying years ago. I am numb. I have been watching police murder people that look like me for years. I’m also a Black history minor. So not only have I been watching it in the 30 years that I’ve been on this planet, but I’ve been watching it for years before we were even alive. I’m not sad. I don't want your pity. I want change."
Which public officials are speaking out about justice for Blake?
In the hours after the shooting, several politicians and policymakers have spoken out, calling for justice and arrests in the incident.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden posted the following statement to his website regarding the police shooting:
"Yesterday in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Jacob Blake was shot seven times in the back as police attempted to restrain him from getting into his car. His children watched from inside the car and bystanders watched in disbelief. And this morning, the nation 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.
These shots pierce the soul of our nation. Jill and I pray for Jacob’s recovery and for his children."
Vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris retweeted Biden's statement, writing, "Jacob Blake should not be fighting for his life right now. As @JoeBiden said, there must be an immediate investigation and the officers involved should be held accountable. Jacob, our nation is praying for you and your entire family."
Jacob Blake should not be fighting for his life right now.
As @JoeBiden said, there must be an immediate investigation and the officers involved should be held accountable.
Jacob, our nation is praying for you and your entire family. https://t.co/F4CSs6JnjS
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) August 24, 2020
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote, in part, on Twitter, "We owe it to Jacob, his children, and all Black Americans to bring an end to racial injustice and police brutality."
The prayers of Americans nationwide are with Jacob Blake as he fights for his life following yesterday’s outrageous shooting in Kenosha, WI. We owe it to Jacob, his children, and all Black Americans to bring an end to racial injustice and police brutality.
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) August 24, 2020
U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said on Twitter: "It’s not enough to paint slogans. We need systemic change: ending qualified immunity, changing budget priorities, investing in communities harmed by overpolicing, and more. The solutions are out there. We must act on them."
Praying for Jacob Blake, his children, and his family.
It’s not enough to paint slogans. We need systemic change: ending qualified immunity, changing budget priorities, investing in communities harmed by overpolicing, and more.
The solutions are out there. We must act on them.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) August 24, 2020
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Cory Booker, Sen. Julián Castro, and Rep. Ayanna Pressley were among the other politicians to speak out and demand justice on social media.
Jacob Blake should not be fighting for his life right now. His children should not be traumatized from watching their father being shot repeatedly in the back by police. His family deserves justice. How many names of Black Americans must we say until this stops? https://t.co/7ATN2iDMHX
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) August 24, 2020
We have again witnessed an unconscionable shooting of a Black man by police.
We pray for Jacob Blake and for his family, and demand that justice be served. https://t.co/pO8lEBvuvK
— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) August 24, 2020
Kenosha police shot Jacob Blake seven times in the back in front of his children in broad daylight. Now he’s fighting for his life in the ICU.
Our prayers are with him, his family, and the Kenosha community. We must demand answers and action on his behalf. pic.twitter.com/G0LuOaEhLS
— Julián Castro (@JulianCastro) August 24, 2020
Jacob Blake is in the ICU fighting for his life. He should be home with his babies. Police shot him in the back 7 times in front of his children.
Mark my words we’re going to fight for accountability just as hard as you’re fighting to survive & make it home to your family Jacob. pic.twitter.com/8dcooPWSJn
— Ayanna Pressley (@AyannaPressley) August 24, 2020
Athletes across the WNBA, NBA, MLB, and tennis are also striking in support of Blake and the Black Lives Matter movement. Atlanta Dream Player Elizabeth Williams announced the team would not play in solidarity with "our brothers in the NBA." The WNBA's Washington Mystics wore the letters of Blake's full name and the number "7" on shirts as they stood at the center of the court.
The NBA announced it would postpone playoff games after the Milwaukee Bucks refused to play in solidarity with Blake and BLM. "The past four months have shed a light on the ongoing racial injustices facing our African American communities. Citizens around the country have used their voices and platforms to speak out against these wrongdoings. Despite the overwhelming plea for change, there has been no action, so our focus today cannot be on basketball," the team said in a statement.
Full statement from the Milwaukee Bucks: pic.twitter.com/jjGEyVcCmB
— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) August 26, 2020
I commend the players on the @Bucks for standing up for what they believe in, coaches like @DocRivers, and the @NBA and @WNBA for setting an example. It’s going to take all our institutions to stand up for our values. pic.twitter.com/rUGETgAt7P
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) August 27, 2020
Tennis star Naomi Osaka also announced on Twitter that she would not play in the Western & Southern Open semifinals on Thursday. "As many of you are aware I was scheduled to play my semifinals match tomorrow," she tweeted. "However, before I am an athlete, I am a black woman. And as a Black woman I feel as though there are much more important matters at hand that need immediate attention, rather than watching me play tennis. I don't expect anything drastic to happen with me not playing, but if I can get a conversation started in a majority white sport I consider that a step in the right direction. Watching the continued genocide of Black people at the hand of the police is honestly making me sick to my stomach."
How has the community responded?
Protests began in Kenosha on Sunday night with about 100 people gathered at the Kenosha County Public Safety Building by 10:15 P.M., according to USA Today. The outlet reports that police officers used tear gas on protestors that evening.
Protesters are currently at the intersection of 40th Street and 28th Avenue in Kenosha, Wisconsin where the man was shot several times by police.
Police say he’s in serious condition. pic.twitter.com/v0nhRxZvMb
— philip lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) August 24, 2020
The Kenosha County Sheriff's Department announced a state of emergency curfew starting at 10:15 p.m. on Sunday and ending at 7 a.m. According to local ABC affiliate WISN, protesters didn't comply with Monday's curfew, marching outside of the Kenosha County Courthouse. The outlet reports that law enforcement used tear gas, rubber bullets, and flash bangs on protesters.
The New York Times reported that about 4,000 people assembled in Madison, WI, near the state Capitol to protest. Other demonstrations cropped up in Portland, Seattle, Minneapolis, and New York City. The following night, two were killed and one person injured as a result of protests in Kenosha, the Times reports. 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse of Illinois has been charged with first-degree intentional homicide for killing the two protesters on Tuesday night. Earlier this year, he was photographed in the front row of a Trump rally, according to the Chicago Tribune. Police have combatted protesters with tear gas and rubber bullets, threatening arrest. Demonstrations in Los Angeles and Atlanta ensued on the third night since Blake's shooting.
Gov. Evers declared a state of emergency and doubled the National Guard presence in Kenosha from 125 to 150, per the Associated Press. “We cannot allow the cycle of systemic racism and injustice to continue,” he said, adding, “We also cannot continue going down this path of damage and destruction.”
Blake's family held a press conference this week to update the public on the status of his injuries and ask for prayers. Blake's mother Julia Jackson addressed the crowd, saying, "My son has been fighting for his life, and we really just need prayers." She added that she had seen some of the damage and violence that has emerged from recent protests and that it didn't mirror their family. "Citizens, police officers, firemen, clergy, politicians, do Jacob justice on this level, and examine your hearts," she said. "We need healing. As I pray for my son's healing, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, I also have been praying, even before this, for the healing of our country."
Civil rights attorney Crump, who's also representing the family of George Floyd, tweeted that Blake's three sons were in the car when the police shot him. Crump is now representing Blake's family. He said in a statement: "We will seek justice for Jacob Blake and his family as we demand answers from the Kenosha Police Department. How many more of these tragic 'while Black' tragedies will it take until the racial profiling and undervaluing of Black lives by the police finally stops?"
Patrick Salvi Jr., one of Crump's other lawyers, said they plan to file a civil lawsuit against the police department, according to CNN.
How can I help demand justice?
You can contact local and state officials to demand justice for Blake and for the police officers involved to be held accountable:
Kenosha District Attorney: 262-653-2400, Michael.Graveley@da.wi.gov
Kenosha Mayor and City Administrator: 262-653-4000, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Kenosha City Attorney:262-653-4170, email@example.com, Edward Antaramian at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wisconsin DOJ: 608-266-1221
Sign Color of Change's petition calling for the firing and arrest of the officer who shot Blake
Sign Change.org's petition calling for the officers involved in the shooting to be charged
You can also donate to the Milwaukee Freedom Fund, an organization that supports local protestors and will be extending its support to protestors in Kenosha. There is also a GoFundMe for Blake's family, raising funds for "medical bills, legal representation, support for his children and therapy costs."
This post will continue to be updated as new information is available.
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