By Ann Maria Shibu
Police shot a Black man in the back multiple times in Kenosha, Wisconsin, as his three sons watched on Sunday, his family’s lawyer said, sparking a night of unrest during which protesters hurled firebombs and bricks at law enforcement officers.
The victim, identified as 29-year-old Jacob Blake, was taken to a hospital in serious condition after the shooting late Sunday afternoon. Blake’s father told NBC News on Monday that his son was out of surgery and in stable condition.
A video circulating on social media showed Blake walking toward the driver’s side of a gray SUV followed by two officers with their guns drawn at his back. Seven gunshot sounds can be heard as Blake, who appears to be unarmed, opens the car door.
It was unknown whether the officer saw something inside the vehicle to justify deadly force. It was also not clear whether one or both officers fired their weapons.
The Police knew that Jacob Blake's children were in the hot car. They could have easily tackled him before he opened his car door if they were afraid he had a weapon in there. THERE IS NO EXCUSE! #blacklivesmatter pic.twitter.com/yGezwta3sM
— Mrs. Krassenstein (@HKrassenstein) August 24, 2020
Crowds gathered at the scene, set fires and threw bricks and Molotov cocktails at police, prompting authorities to impose a curfew. On Monday morning Kenosha County announced on Twitter that its courthouse and administration building would be closed due to damage from the night’s unrest.
The incident occurred three months after the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, in Minneapolis police custody sparked nationwide protests against police brutality and structural racism in the United States.
“Tonight, Jacob Blake was shot in the back multiple times, in broad daylight,” Wisconsin’s Democratic governor, Tony Evers, said in a statement. “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.”
Social media posts showed crowds marching on Sunday evening down streets in Kenosha, a city of around 100,000 people on Lake Michigan about 65 miles (100 km) north of Chicago.
Clyde McLemore, a member of a nearby chapter of the Black Lives Matter movement, said he was helping organize a protest at noon CDT (1700 GMT) on Monday that would walk from Blake’s house to the courthouse and police station about 2-1/2 miles (4 km) away in Kenosha.
Whitney Cabal, one of the leaders of the Black Lives Matter chapter in Kenosha who is also known by her social media name Billy Violet, said her group has staged protests following two other incidents of police use of force in recent weeks and has been dissatisfied with the police response.
“This city is not going to stop burning itself down until they (protesters) know that this officer has been fired,” she said. “There was no reason for seven shots to be fired into this man’s back while he had three kids in the car.”
The shooting occurred around 5 p.m. as officers were responding to what they termed a “domestic incident.” The victim was immediately taken to a hospital by the police, according to a Kenosha Police Department statement. No further explanation was given by the police as to what led to the shooting.
Prominent civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who said he had been retained by the Blake family and who has represented George Floyd’s family, said in a statement that Blake had been trying to de-escalate a domestic incident when the officers first shot him with a taser gun.
“As he was walking away to check on his children, police fired their weapons several times into his back at point blank range. Blake’s three sons were only a few feet away and witnessed police shoot their father,” Crump said.
The officers involved in the shooting have been placed on administrative leave, the Wisconsin Department of Justice said early on Monday. Officers are routinely placed on leave after a shooting involving law enforcement until an investigation has been completed.
The state’s Division of Criminal Investigation said it would work to issue a report to prosecutors within 30 days.