Police Shooting of Black Man Sparks Unrest in Wisconsin

Protesters confront officers outside the Kenosha Police Department in Kenosha, Wis., on Sunday. (Mike De Sisti/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel via AP)

(CN) — The Wisconsin Department of Justice said Monday morning it is investigating the shooting of a Black man by Kenosha police the night before, which spurred immediate unrest locally as graphic video of the incident circulated on social media and generated national attention.

In a press release Monday, the state DOJ said its Division of Criminal Investigation, or DCI, is investigating an officer-involved shooting Sunday evening in Kenosha, located about 40 miles south of Milwaukee, which occurred while officers were responding to a reported domestic incident.

The victim of the police shooting has been identified as 29-year-old Jacob Blake of Kenosha. Flight for Life transported him late Sunday to Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee, where he is in serious condition after surgery as of Monday morning.

“DCI is continuing to review evidence and determine the facts of this incident and will turn over investigative reports to a prosecutor following a complete and thorough investigation,” said the DOJ’s statement, which laid out that the investigation will be carried out by DCI, Wisconsin State Patrol and the Kenosha County Sheriff’s Office.

The agency also said the officers involved have been put on administrative leave and that DCI “aims to provide a report of the incident to the prosecutor within 30 days.”

Prominent civil rights attorney Ben Crump tweeted Monday morning that Blake’s family has retained his services in the aftermath of the shooting. Crump also represents the family of George Floyd, a Black man whose death at the hands of Minneapolis police on Memorial Day sparked globe-spanning protests and a national crisis of conscience on unchecked police brutality and racial injustice.

“We all watched the horrific video of Jacob Blake being shot in the back several times by Kenosha police,” said a statement from Crump’s office, which claims that Blake’s three sons witnessed his shooting.

“Their irresponsible, reckless, and inhumane actions nearly cost the life of a man who was simply trying to do the right thing by intervening in a domestic incident. It’s a miracle he’s still alive,” the statement continued.

Unrest erupted in Kenosha almost immediately after the shooting, with protests lasting through Sunday night into Monday morning centered around the site of the shooting and local government buildings. Reports of cars and other property set on fire flooded in after the shooting, and tense clashes with police reportedly featured the use of tear gas and a Kenosha officer being injured with a brick.

Kenosha County announced that the county courthouse and administration building would be closed on Monday “due to damage sustained during last night’s civil unrest.”

Police in riot gear stand outside the Kenosha County Courthouse on Monday. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers promptly condemned the shooting in an official statement from his office released hours after it took place around 5 p.m. on Sunday.

“Tonight, Jacob Blake was shot in the back multiple times, in broad daylight, in Kenosha, Wisconsin,” the Democratic governor said. “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 listed the names of Floyd and Breonna Taylor, in addition to Black Wisconsinites like Tony Robinson, Dontre Hamilton and Sylville Smith, who have been killed by police in recent years. His statement also refers to Ernest Lacy, a Black man killed by Milwaukee police in 1981.

The governor turned the screws for a statewide response Monday afternoon by calling a special session of the GOP-controlled Wisconsin Legislature on policing accountability and transparency via executive order.

“I am urging the legislature to rise to this occasion and give this special session the urgent and productive effort this moment demands and that the people of Wisconsin deserve,” Evers said.

Evers similarly called for police reforms on June 19 in the wake of widespread demonstrations calling for racial justice, but the legislature has made no move to address his demands.

Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes took state lawmakers to task for their inaction in a press release announcing Evers’ special session call on Monday.

“For two months, our legislative leaders have ignored the calls for change from people in every part of our state, and now another Black man is fighting for his life due to the actions of law enforcement,” Barnes said. “The people of our state are done waiting for the legislature to act, and so are we.”

The special session would address nine proposed bills which, among other measures, would require state law enforcement officers to complete eight hours of training each year in de-escalation techniques and use of force options, require the state DOJ to annually publish a report on use of force incidents, and unilaterally prohibit the use of no-knock warrants and chokeholds.

On Monday, Evers also mobilized a limited number of Wisconsin Army National Guard members to support Kenosha police ahead of more anticipated protests.

Milwaukee Common Council President Cavalier Johnson on Monday called the officer-involved shooting “yet another example of the deep-seated inequities that exist for Black residents across our city, state and country.” He said that while much of the spotlight for police reform falls on larger cities, “this serves as a sobering reminder that police reform must occur in smaller communities as well.”

Kenosha, once a thriving manufacturing hub in southeast Wisconsin, is the Badger State’s fourth most populous city at around 100,000 residents.

Calls seeking comment from the offices of Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian, Kenosha City Attorney Edward Antaramian and the Kenosha Police Department’s public information officer Lieutenant Joseph Nosalik were not answered Monday morning.

Jeffery Robinson, director of the ACLU’s Trone Center for Justice and Equality, decried “another vicious act of police violence caught on camera” on Monday.

“It should now be clear to elected officials across the country that the only way to end the scourge of police violence is to immediately divest from a policing institution that, from its inception, has been used to oppress Black people, and reinvest into the same communities that those horrific acts of violence are regularly perpetrated against,” Robinson said. “Policing is a crisis in and of itself, and we can no longer throw money and resources at an institution as hopelessly broken and expect to get different results.”

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