On Sunday, a white police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin, repeatedly shot an unarmed Black man in the back as he calmly walked away. The officer fired from extremely close range, in front of dozens of witnesses, hitting the man repeatedly in the back.
Here’s what we know about the incident.
The Bystander Video
In a deeply upsetting video that circulated on social media, several officers can be seen gathered around a sidewalk on a suburban street. When the video begins, Jacob Blake is standing among them, but he soon begins to walk, at an unrushed pace, toward the driver’s side of a parked SUV. As bystanders scream, one of the officers follows closely behind with a gun pointed to Blake’s back. Another officer trails behind them, as police shout at Blake to get on the ground.
As Blake opens the door to step in the SUV, the officer closest to him grabs his shirt and pulls on it. Blake appears to strain against the officer’s force in an effort to get into the car, and a second later, the officer fires seven times into Blake’s back. At least two officers are pointing guns at this point. Blake is just inches away from the police officer firing at him.
It appears that Blake is still alive but in critical condition. He was taken to a hospital near Milwaukee.
Witness Accounts of the Incident
According to the department, the officers were responding to a call about a domestic incident. A number of witnesses—there were about 60 people at the scene—told the Kenosha News that Blake had been trying to break up a “verbal altercation” between two women in the minutes before the video started. They also said that the police had tried to hit him with a taser. Blake, they said, had no weapon.
A civil rights attorney representing Blake’s family put out a statement on Monday claiming that Blake had been returning to his vehicle to check on his young children, who were in the car: “Blake’s three sons were only a few feet away and witnessed police shoot their father.”
The Officers’ Status
The officers, who have not been identified, have been placed on administrative leave. The Wisconsin Department of Justice will investigate the shooting, officials said.
The Protests and Civil Unrest
Protests broke out in the city, starting Sunday night and lasting into Monday. A crowd formed at the intersection where Blake was shot, and police officers met them in riot gear. Protesters damaged police cars, and one officer was struck with a brick. Hundreds of protesters gathered peacefully to march through the city and chant outside the Kenosha County Public Safety Building.
The city declared a state of emergency and a curfew, citing “armed robberies and shots fired calls.” With the breaking of curfew as justification, police, armed with rubber bullets, fired tear gas into the crowd. The protesters dispersed but gathered again, while others broke windows and sprayed graffiti on several buildings downtown. Someone set a fire outside the courthouse and inside a few cars. Police continued to confront the protesters with tear gas and riot tactics in clashes through the night. The National Guard was called in, to be deployed Monday.
The Response From Politicians
Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, released a statement calling for greater police accountability. “While we do not have all the details yet, what we know for certain is 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 in our country,” he said. “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.”
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