Crippled by cops' bullets
Lawyer says Jacob Blake not likely to walk again after police shootingWednesday, August 26, 2020
WISCONSIN, United States (AP) — The family attorney for a black man shot by police in Wisconsin said yesterday that Jacob Blake is paralysed and it would “take a miracle” for him to walk again.
The shooting of Jacob Blake on Sunday in Kenosha in the back was captured on cellphone video and ignited new protests over racial injustice in several cities, just three months after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police touched off a wider reckoning on race.
“They shot my son seven times, seven times, like he didn't matter,” said Blake's father, who is also named Jacob Blake and who spoke to reporters alongside other family members and lawyers. “But my son matters. He's a human being and he matters.”
The 29-year-old was in surgery, said attorney Ben Crump, adding that the bullets severed Blake's spinal cord and shattered his vertebrae.
“It's going to take a miracle for Jacob Blake Jr to ever walk again,” Crump said.
Another Blake family attorney said they would be filing a civil lawsuit against the police department over the shooting. Police have said little about what happened, other than that they were responding to a domestic dispute. The Wisconsin Department of Justice is investigating.
After a night during which protests devolved into unrest, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers called for calm, while also saying the National Guard presence would be doubled from 125 to 250 in Kenosha. Crowds destroyed dozens of buildings and set more than 30 fires on Monday night.
“We cannot allow the cycle of systemic racism and injustice to continue,” said Evers, who is facing mounting pressure from Republicans over his handling of the unrest that has followed the shooting. “We also cannot continue going down this path of damage and destruction.”
Blake's mother, Julia Jackson, said the damage in Kenosha does not reflect the feelings of her family and if her son could see it, he would be “very unpleased”.
Three of the younger Blake's sons — aged three, five and eight — were in the car at the time of the shooting, Crump said. It was the eight-year-old's birthday, Crump said.
Blake's father is slated to speak at a March on Washington commemoration on Friday organised by the Rev Al Sharpton. His father and the victim's grandfather, Jacob Blake Sr, was a prominent minister and civil rights leader in the Chicago area in the 1960s.
The man who said he made the cellphone video of the shooting, 22-year-old Raysean White, said he saw Blake scuffling with three officers and heard them yell, “Drop the knife! Drop the knife!” before the gunfire erupted. He said he didn't see a knife in Blake's hands.
In the footage, Blake walks from the sidewalk around the front of his SUV to his driver-side door as officers follow him with their guns drawn and shout at him. As Blake opens the door and leans into the SUV, an officer grabs his shirt from behind and opens fire while Blake has his back turned. Seven shots can be heard, though it isn't clear how many struck Blake or how many officers fired.
Since the shooting, anger has spilled into the streets of Kenosha and other cities, including Los Angeles, Wisconsin's capital of Madison and in Minneapolis, the epicentre of the Black Lives Matter movement this summer following Floyd's death.
Hundreds of protesters defied an 8:00 pm curfew Monday night, massing in downtown Kenosha, where they were met by a wall of law enforcement officers, including 125 members of the Wisconsin National Guard.
Some clashed with officers and vandalised businesses. There were 34 fires associated with the unrest, with 30 businesses destroyed or damaged along with an unknown number of residences, Kenosha Fire Chief Charles Leipzig told the Kenosha News.
One of the buildings destroyed was the Wisconsin Department of Corrections' probation and parole office. Most staff had already transitioned to working remotely, and all essential operations are continuing, said department spokeswoman Anna Neal.
A city block was cordoned off yesterday so officials could survey damage. Smoke filled the air and visibility was low as firefighters used water cannons on still smouldering buildings.
“Nobody deserves this,” said Pat Oertle, owner of Computer Adventure. Computers were stolen, and the store was “destroyed”, she said.
“This accomplishes nothing,” Oertle said. “This is not justice that they're looking for.”
US Senator Ron Johnson and US Representative Bryan Steil, both Republicans, called on the governor to do more to quell the unrest. Steil said he would request federal assistance if necessary.
A Wisconsin state lawmaker said Evers, who is white, and Lt Governor Mandela Barnes, who is black, encouraged violence with their comments after the shooting.
“They did not call for peace. They did not encourage calm,” Republican state Senator Howard Marklein said. “They did encourage people to jump to conclusions and take negative action.”
Evers continued to call for protesters to be peaceful.
“Please do not allow the actions of a few distract us from the work we must do together to demand justice, equity, and accountability,” he said.
In Madison, about 500 protesters marched to the state Capitol on Monday night, and some broke windows, stole from stores and sprayed graffiti along the way. Police used tear gas and pepper spray on the crowds and six people were arrested, according to Madison police.
In Minneapolis, 11 were arrested after breaking windows at the county jail on Monday night. One police officer suffered a broken hand in an altercation with demonstrators, the sheriff's department said.