National Guard heads to Kenosha after protests erupt, Wisconsin DOJ to investigate

Eufemia Didonato

A Wisconsin county has again declared an emergency curfew following a night of protests over a video that appeared to show police officers firing several shots at close range into a Black man’s back Sunday night. The curfew will be in effect from 8 p.m. Monday night until 7 a.m.Tuesday, according to the Kenosha […]

A Wisconsin county has again declared an emergency curfew following a night of protests over a video that appeared to show police officers firing several shots at close range into a Black man’s back Sunday night.

The curfew will be in effect from 8 p.m. Monday night until 7 a.m.Tuesday, according to the Kenosha Police Department. The Wisconsin National Guard was headed to Kenosha on Monday, according to the Kenosha News.

The state Department of Justice is investigating after officers from the department responding to a domestic incident shortly after 5 p.m. “were involved in an officer involved shooting,” according to a news release.

The man who was shot, identified by Gov. Tony Evers as Jacob Blake, was airlifted to a Milwaukee hospital in serious condition as of early Monday, police said. Tyrone Muhammad, a member of the group Ex-Cons for Community and social change, said Blake’s father told him Blake was out of surgery and was expected to survive.

On Twitter, Evers said he and his wife are hoping for Blake’s recovery. 

“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 wrote on Twitter. 

A press conference that was scheduled to take place outside in Kenosha Monday afternoon was abruptly moved inside to a city building as a safety measure, Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian said.

Antaramian still addressed a group of protesters Monday afternoon through a megaphone outside the building where he gave the press conference, preaching “we are going to make sure that justice is done for everyone.” After giving brief remarks, Antaramian went inside the building, sparking a tense situation between protesters and authorities.

Police in riot gear pepper-sprayed the crowd; five or 10 people were hit, including photographers from AP and Getty. The remaining crowd, including many members of the media, were not allowed inside.

What happened before the shooting?

One of Blake’s neighbors said when he went to the store about 15 minutes before the shooting, Blake was barbecuing with his kids. When the neighbor returned, Blake was trying to break up a fight. Seven or eight police officers arrived. They wanted to talk with Blake, but he wasn’t interested and started putting his kids in the car to leave.

Two people who live in the Kenosha neighborhood Blake has called home for about two years said he has five children ranging in age from 3 to 7 and a fiancee.

“He’d be out here with us right now. It’s a bad dream. I’m just waiting for him to come outside,” said one of the neighbors, who didn’t want his name used because he feared police retaliation.

What does the video show?

The police department’s release offered little additional information, but graphic video circulating on social media showed a man being shot multiple times. Blake appears to be walking toward a car as he is followed by an officer who has a weapon drawn.

Blake opens the car door and reaches into the vehicle and an officer tugs on his shirt. At least seven gunshots can be heard in the video, followed by a car horn. Two officers can be seen in the video near the car; it is unclear what happened before the video was recorded. 

KPD said “officers provided immediate aid” to the person who was shot. The video circulating online cuts away shortly after the shooting. 

Benjamin Crump, a civil rights attorney who is representing Blake’s family and the family of George Floyd, a Black man who died at the knee of a fired Minneapolis police officer on Memorial Day, shared a video from the incident on Twitter. He said Blake was helping to de-escalate a domestic situation and his three sons were in the car.

“They saw a cop shoot their father,” Crump tweeted. “They will be traumatized forever. We cannot let officers violate their duty to PROTECT us. Our kids deserve better!!”

Protests erupt overnight

The incident almost immediately set off unrest in the city about 40 miles south of Milwaukee which continued early Monday morning. 

A crowd of about 100 people had reached the Kenosha County Public Safety Building by 10:15 p.m. and were chanting “no justice, no peace.” A line of police flanked the building and faced off with the crowd, moving them away from the building.

Unrest continues: Several fires burning in Kenosha after police officer shoots Black man

By late Sunday, multiple vehicles were set ablaze and windows were smashed along city thoroughfares as crowds faced off with law enforcement. Officers in riot gear stood in lines and SWAT vehicles remained on the streets to move people away from city buildings despite the declaration of an overnight curfew.

A man on a bike rides past a city truck on fire outside the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha on Sunday, Aug. 23, 2020. Kenosha police shot a man Sunday evening, setting off unrest in the city after a video appeared to show the officer firing several shots at close range into the man's back.
A man on a bike rides past a city truck on fire outside the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha on Sunday, Aug. 23, 2020. Kenosha police shot a man Sunday evening, setting off unrest in the city after a video appeared to show the officer firing several shots at close range into the man’s back.

Police later set off tear gas canisters, scattering the crowd.

At 11:15 p.m., a city dump truck that had been positioned to prevent traffic from heading toward the police department was fully engulfed in fire. Some people were getting close to take pictures until someone shouted that the gas tank could blow.

By midnight, the crowd had dwindled to a few hundred people who stood in the square next to the courthouse watching city dump trucks go up in flames. A big boom sounded when one of the tires blew up, dispersing the crowd once again.

Police deployed tear gas early Monday in an effort to disperse hundreds of people who took to the streets following the incident.The Kenosha County Courthouse and Administration Building were closed to the public Monday “due to damage sustained during last night’s civil unrest,” according to Kenosha County officials.

As of 9 a.m. Monday, garbage trucks blocked the entrance to 56th Street at Sheridan Street, outside the County Courthouse, and about 16 sheriff’s deputies wearing helmets and holding shields were still standing outside the building.

Activists say more must be done: Has the nation made progress since George Floyd’s death?

Onlookers came to witness the damage and take pictures. Others came with brooms and shovels to clean up the broken glass on the downtown streets. Written with spray paint on the courthouse: “They kill us because they fear us, honor the dead” and “be water, spread fire.”

The smell of natural gas was in the air, and one truck of firefighters was on scene investigating. Among the damaged buildings: the public library, the Dinosaur Discovery Museum, the Harborside Academy charter school, a law firm, the USPS building and the county register of deeds.

Howard Plain walked up to the courthouse unsure if it was open — he had a hearing set for the morning. Plain, a Kenosha resident of eight years, said he used to live in Chicago and didn’t expect the violence to arrive in his city.

Plain said he watched the video of the shooting on Facebook last night and thought the officers could deescalated the situation or used a stun gun instead of shooting Blake.

“The police could have handled it better,” he said.

Joe Biden and other prominent figures react to shooting

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden called for an investigation into the incident and the dismantling of systemic racism.

“This calls for an immediate, full and transparent investigation and the officers must be held accountable,” Biden said in a statement. “These shots pierce the soul of our nation. Jill and I pray for Jacob’s recovery and for his children.”

The incident also drew criticism from Wisconsin’s governor, who indicated he intends to take action over the shooting. After invoking the names of other Black people killed by police, Evers added, “We stand against excessive use of force and immediate escalation when engaging with Black Wisconsinites.”

More: Prominent figures react to the Jacob Blake shooting in Kenosha

Bernice King, the daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., tweeted late Sunday night, in apparent reference to the shooting, “We shouldn’t have to see one more video of a Black human being brutalized and/or gunned down by police in a clear case of excessive or unwarranted force.”

She added, “Anybody who doesn’t believe we are beyond a state of emergency is choosing to lack empathy and awareness.”

Jeffery Robinson, director of the ACLU’s Trone Center for Justice and Equality, called the incident “yet another vicious act of police violence caught on camera” and urged elected officials to divert funds away from police departments.

“Unfortunately, disgusting acts of police brutality like this will be commonplace so long as police continue to act as an occupying force in Black communities,” Robinson said in a statement.

What’s being done?

In a statement early Monday, Wisconsin DOJ said the officers involved in the shooting had been placed on administrative leave. The state’s Division of Criminal Investigation is heading up an investigation into the shooting and will seek to “provide a report of the incident to the prosecutor within 30 days,” according to the statement.

The statement provided by the state’s DOJ does not identify the officers. It also doesn’t indicate why officers confronted Blake at the scene. 

“DCI is leading this investigation and is assisted by Wisconsin State Patrol and Kenosha County Sheriff’s Office,” DOJ said its statement. ” All involved law enforcement are fully cooperating with DCI during this investigation.”

Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul said he will work closely with the district attorney’s office throughout the case and hopes Blake will make a full recovery.

“The Wisconsin Department of Justice is vigorously and thoroughly investigating yesterday’s officer-involved shooting in Kenosha,” he said in a statement. “As with all investigations we conduct, we will unwaveringly pursue justice in this case.”

Evers calls special session on reducing police brutality

Evers is calling lawmakers into session to take action on a package of bills aimed at reducing the prevalence of police brutality a day after Blake was shot. The move would ban police chokeholds and no-knock search warrants and make it harder for overly aggressive officers to move from one job to another.

The nine bills were proposed by Evers in early June following Floyd’s death, but he did not call a special session at the time and lawmakers did not debate them. 

Among the bills proposed by Evers is a measure that would make it easier for people to sue those who unnecessarily call the police in attempts to harass other people or get them to leave a place they’re allowed to be.

Also in Evers’ package is a bill that would require those seeking jobs in law enforcement to turn over their employment files from previous policing jobs. That’s meant to prevent officers with troubled histories from moving from one agency to another.

Another bill would require law enforcement agencies to have use-of-force standards that say their primary duty is to preserve life and allow the use of deadly force only as a last resort. The policies would require officers to use the least amount of force necessary to counteract a threat and would require officers to try to prevent their colleagues from using unreasonable levels of force.

Other bills would require all use-of-force policies to be available online and would require an annual report on all police encounters involving the use of force. Another bill would require officers to complete eight hours of training a year on de-escalation techniques.

In addition, Evers wants the Department of Justice to hand out $1 million in grants to violence-prevention organizations.

Contributing: Jay Cannon, USA TODAY; Molly Beck, Gina Barton, Sophie Carson, Meg Jones and Elliot Hughes, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Jacob Blake: Protests erupt after Black man shot by Wisconsin police

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