KENOSHA, Wisconsin—Hours before this city saw three people shot, two fatally, during a night of violent protests over the shooting of Jacob Blake, the 29-year-old’s family on Tuesday decried racial injustice while calling for peace and the “healing of our country.”
“My son has been fighting for his life, and we just really need prayers. As I was riding through here, through the city, I noticed a lot of damage. That doesn’t reflect my son or my family,” Julia Jackson, Blake’s mother, said in an afternoon press conference. “If Jacob knew what was going on, as far as that goes, the violence and destruction, he would be very unpleased.”
“Do Jacob justice on this level and examine your hearts. We need healing. As I pray for my son’s healing—physically, emotionally, and spiritually—I also have been praying, even before this, for the healing of our country.”
Her message went unheeded. Police fired tear gas, and protesters set numerous fires. Then, around midnight, shots rang out—scattering the crowd as cries for a medic filled the air.
It was later confirmed that three people had been shot and two of them had died from their injuries. The shots were fired outside a gas station, where, according to Sheriff David Beth, a group of armed men had gathered. It was not yet clear who fired the shots, how many shooters there were, or if they were affiliated with an armed militia, though Beth used that term to refer to a “vigilante group” nearby.
However, after reviewing video footage posted on social media, police were reportedly looking for a man who was armed with a long gun.
It was unclear if it was the same individual, but a young, armed man can be seen in multiple videos taken before, during, and after the gunfire. In one of his first appearances, he appears to be talking to officers and even accepting bottled water from them.
The same man was later captured on video running from pursuers, falling to the ground, and firing his weapon at people who were apparently trying to disarm him, the Journal-Sentinel reported. The man was finally seen heading toward police tactical vehicles with his arms in the air.
It was the most intense clash since the Sunday evening shooting unleashed the sort of outrage that had played out in cities across America earlier in the summer after the killing of George Floyd by police in Minnesota.
A Kenosha police officer shot Blake in the back several times at close range on Sunday evening as he tried to get into a van with his kids. The harrowing incident was recorded by a bystander in a video that quickly went viral, sparking two nights of spiraling unrest in the Wisconsin city.
“They shot my son seven times. Seven times. Like he didn’t matter. But my son matters. He’s a human being, and he matters,” Jacob Blake, the 29-year-old’s father, said Tuesday.
Protests in Kenosha again began peacefully on Tuesday. Then, shortly after 8:30 p.m. local time, a protester threw a water bottle over the fence around the county courthouse.
Demonstrators called for those with shields to move to the front of the crowd as police drones roared overhead, and officers and military personnel surged out of the courthouse.
Protesters and law enforcement proceeded to exchange projectiles as medics screamed that they were positioned across the street.
Just after curfew took effect at 9 p.m., police dispelled pepper balls, which feature the effects of pepper spray but dissipate like tear gas.
Protesters ran away, choking. The tension that was present the previous night had returned with a vengeance.
Soon, actual tear gas followed, along with orders for protesters to disperse.
Earlier Tuesday, Patrick Salvin, one of the attorneys representing the Blake family, gave an update on the 29-year-old’s condition, stating that he “has a long road ahead of him.” Salvin said several bullets went through Blake’s spinal cord, there are holes in his stomach, and he “had to have nearly his entire colon and small intestine removed.” The lawyer added Blake also suffered damage to his kidney and liver and “was also shot in the arm.”
Family members previously told The Daily Beast that Blake is currently “paralyzed from the waist down” and had surgery this morning to see if doctors could “get some nerves to work.”
“It’s going to take a miracle for Jacob Blake to ever walk again,” said civil-rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who is also working with the Blake family.
Jackson said that when she saw her son, he apologized for what happened and told her he didn’t want to be a “burden on anyone.”
“I want to be with my children and I don’t think I’m going to walk again, mom,” she said he told her.
Blake’s mother pleaded for peace in her powerful statement, saying that the nation needs to begin “to pray for healing.”
“We are the United States. Have we been united? Do you understand what’s going to happen when we fall? Because a house that is against each other cannot stand,” she said. “Clearly you can see I have beautiful brown skin. But take a look at your hand. Whatever shade it is, it is beautiful as well. How dare you hate what we are? We are humans.”
She added, “Let’s use our hearts, our love, and our intelligence to work together... to show the rest of the world how humans are supposed to treat each other. America is great when we behave greatly.”
Several family members hugged each other and wept as relatives spoke about the systemic racism that has plagued the U.S. and called for the officers involved in Blake’s shooting to be prosecuted. “I won’t want your pity, I want change,” one of Blake’s sisters said.
On Monday evening, several Kenosha buildings erupted in flames—the second night in a row of destruction amid the rage over yet another Black person being shot by police in America. Residents also hurled water bottles and bricks at law enforcement.
Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul said Monday the state’s Justice Department was “vigorously” investigating the shooting and “will unwaveringly pursue justice.” Kaul, however, said the state DOJ was not yet releasing the identity or number of officers involved in the shooting. He added that while the police have dashcams, the officers did not wear body cameras. The U.S. Department of Justice said Tuesday it was also aiding in the investigation.
Word that Blake may be paralyzed was not lost on protesters early Tuesday evening.
“I think it only exacerbates it, with everything going on,” 30-year-old Milwaukee real estate agent Derrick Braggs said, adding, “Basically what we want is accountability and for the police to be punished.”
One of the protesters who marched was Jada Earl. Her entire family is from Kenosha and she grew up in the city, moved away, and moved back just last week. She said she was 2.1 miles away from Blake when he was shot by police.
“It’s especially poignant in Kenosha, because white people in Kenosha don’t realize they’re being disenfranchised by the same systems that shoot Black people,” she told The Daily Beast.
She expressed hope that if Blake survived, he could become a powerful player in the increasingly pointed conversation about racism and policing in America.
“If someone who has been a victim of police violence can be their own voice, instead of end up in the grave—that’s my prayer, that he can speak on his own situation,” she said.