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

A Wisconsin county again declared an emergency curfew after a night of protests over a

A Wisconsin county again declared an emergency curfew after a night of protests over a video that showed 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 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 a 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 and was 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 expected to survive.

On Twitter, Evers said he and his wife hope 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 news conference scheduled to take place outside in Kenosha on Monday afternoon was moved to a city building as a safety measure, Mayor John Antaramian said.

Antaramian addressed protesters through a megaphone outside the building, promising that “we are going to make sure that justice is done for everyone.” After brief remarks, he went inside.

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

What happened before the shooting?

One of Blake’s neighbors said that when he went to a 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 a vehicle 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?

Graphic video circulating on social media shows Blake walking toward a car, 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, 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 represents Blake’s family and the family of George Floyd, a Black man who died under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer on Memorial Day, shared a video from the incident on Twitter. He said Blake was helping to deescalate 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. 

About 100 people had reached the Kenosha County Public Safety Building by 10:15 p.m., chanting, “No justice, no peace.” A line of police flanked the building and moved the crowd away from the building.

Unrest continues: Several fires burn 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 city truck burns outside the county courthouse in Kenosha, Wis., on Aug. 23 after a police officer fired several shots at close range into a man's back.
A city truck burns outside the county courthouse in Kenosha, Wis., on Aug. 23 after a police officer fired several shots at close range into a man’s back.

Police 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 engulfed in fire. Some people got close enough 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 dump trucks go up in flames. A big boom sounded when one of the tires blew up, dispersing the crowd.

Police deployed tear gas early Monday to disperse hundreds of people who took to the streets. 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 streets outside the County Courthouse, and about 16 sheriff’s deputies wearing helmets and holding shields stood 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. Spray-painted 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 firefighters were on scene investigating. Among the damaged buildings: the public library, the Dinosaur Discovery Museum, the Harborside Academy charter school, a law firm, the Postal Service building and the county register of deeds.

Howard Plain walked up to the courthouse, unsure whether 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 in his city.

Plain said he watched the video of the shooting on Facebook and thought the officers could have 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.”

Wisconsin’s governor indicated he intends to take action over the shooting. After invoking the names of other Black people killed by police, Evers said, “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, daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., tweeted late Sunday night, “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 said, “Anybody who doesn’t believe we are beyond a state of emergency is choosing to lack empathy and awareness.”

Jeffery Robinson, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’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, the Wisconsin Department of Justice said the officers involved in the shooting were placed on administrative leave. The state’s Division of Criminal Investigation is heading an investigation into the shooting and seeks to “provide a report of the incident to the prosecutor within 30 days,” according to a statement.

The statement provided by the state’s DOJ does not identify the officers or indicate why they confronted Blake. 

“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 violence

Evers called lawmakers into session to take action on a package of bills aimed at reducing police violence. The legislation would ban police chokeholds and no-knock search warrants and make it harder for overly aggressive officers to move from one job to another.

Evers proposed the nine bills in early June after Floyd’s death, but he did not call a special session, and lawmakers did not debate them. 

Among the bills 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.

Another bill 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 deescalation techniques.

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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