NBA Boycott: What Happened to Jacob Blake?
On Sunday, Aug. 23, a graphic video went viral of 29-year-old Jacob Blake being shot in the back seven times by a police officer in the presence of three of Blake’s children. Gov. Tony Evers immediately condemned the incident, which has sparked violent protests in Kenosha over the past week. Rioters have vandalized businesses, and there have been reports of self-declared militia groups, some of whom have requested Sheriff David Beth to deputize civilians in order to keep the peace. Two people were killed and another was severely wounded during one of the protests Tuesday, although it is not clear whether the shooter was involved in one of the militia groups. Police have arrested 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse in connection to the shooting and charged him with homicide.
The information surrounding what happened on the evening of Aug. 23 is spotty. The Blake family’s lawyer, Benjamin Crump, claims Blake was shot while attempting to stop a domestic disturbance.
Police say they were called to respond to a domestic incident around 5 p.m. that night, but it is not clear precisely what role Blake played in it. A woman told the dispatcher that her boyfriend was there and was not supposed to be there. The dispatcher also mentioned Blake by name and said he was not supposed to be there. According to the dispatcher, Blake had taken the caller’s keys and was refusing to leave.
Police attempted to arrest Blake, although they have not said why. When Blake resisted arrest, an officer tased him. Blake continued moving away from the officers, walking around to the driver’s side of his car, and reaching in. At that point, officer Rusten Sheskey shot him seven times in the back. Police say they have recovered a knife in Blake’s vehicle, one he allegedly admitted to possessing.
The original video that went viral showed only Blake walking to his car, leaning in, and being shot from behind. A second video has since emerged showing him in an altercation with police officers before walking to his car.
Sheskey, who has been with the Kenosha police for seven years, was the only officer to fire his weapon. He and another officer have been placed on administrative leave. Crump says that Blake, who has undergone surgery and is recovering in a hospital, is now paralyzed.
It is not clear whether the officers who attempted to arrest Blake were aware there was a warrant (issued on July 6) out for his arrest in connection with an alleged domestic abuse incident in May. Blake has been charged with third-degree sexual assault, trespassing and disorderly conduct. While rumors have circulated online that he is a child rapist, this claim seems to be unsubstantiated.
Many have pointed out that whether or not officers were aware of the warrant is irrelevant and does not justify shooting someone in the back multiple times.
As a former police officer I can tell you that shooting someone in the back seven times is not the right use of force for an unarmed man walking away from you.
I can’t believe I have to say that.
— Josh Hicks (@joshhicksky) August 25, 2020
Speaking at a press conference Tuesday, James E. Ward, Jr., family pastor to Blake’s mother and grandmother for more than 30 years, emphasized the importance of looking to God to heal the deep wounds in our country.
“Despite our differences, every citizen of America can agree that we indeed have a monumental problem in our nation,” said Ward, “a problem that people created, but people are incapable of solving.” He went on to pray:
I declare the mercy of God. The grace of God. The peace of God. The goodness of God. And most importantly, the love of God over Kenosha. Over black people and white people. Over citizens and police and over these United States of America. Father, unify us by your Holy Spirit. We pray for Jacob Blake even now and ask you to heal his spirit, soul, mind and body as well as the entire family. We ask you to give us wisdom on how to navigate our way forward as we deliberate to seek justice and to seek to bring healing to a hurting nation. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.