Lawyer: Blake Not Likely To Walk Again After Shot By Police

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In this September 2019 selfie photo taken in Evanston, Ill., Adria-Joi Watkins poses with her second cousin Jacob Blake. He is recovering from being shot multiple times by Kenosha police on Aug. 23. (Courtesy Adria-Joi Watkins via AP)

By MIKE HOUSEHOLDER and SCOTT BAUER
Associated Press

Jacob Blake, the Black man shot multiple times by police in Wisconsin, is paralyzed, and it would “take a miracle” for him to walk again, his family’s attorney said Tuesday, while calling for the officer who opened fire to be arrested and others involved to lose their jobs.

The shooting of Blake on Sunday in Kenosha _ apparently in the back while three of his children looked on _ was captured on cellphone video and ignited new protests over racial injustice in several cities, some of which have devolved into unrest. It came 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. Another attorney said there was also severe damage to organs.

“It’s going to take a miracle for Jacob Blake Jr. to ever walk again,” Crump said.

The legal team plans to file 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 officers involved have not been named. The Wisconsin Department of Justice is investigating.

After a night during which protests devolved into unrest, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers called for calm Tuesday, while also declaring a state of emergency under which he doubled the National Guard deployment in Kenosha from 125 to 250. The night before crowds destroyed dozens of buildings and set more than 30 fires in the southeastern Wisconsin city’s downtown.

“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. “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 what her family wants and that, if her son could see it, he would be “very unpleased.”

She said that the first thing her son said to her when she saw him was he was sorry.

“He said, `I don’t want to be a burden on you guys,’“ Jackson said. “’I want to be with my children, and I don’t think I’ll walk again.”’

Three of the younger Blake’s sons _ aged 3, 5 and 8 _ were in the car at the time of the shooting, Crump said. It was the 8-year-old’s birthday, he added.

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. Seven shots can be heard, though it isn’t clear how many struck Blake or how many officers fired.

Blake’s father told the Chicago Sun-Times that his son had eight holes in his body.

Anger over the shooting has spilled into the streets of Kenosha and other cities, including Los Angeles, Wisconsin’s capital of Madison and in Minneapolis, the epicenter of the Black Lives Matter movement this summer following Floyd’s death.

Hundreds of protesters defied an 8 p.m. curfew Monday night, massing in downtown Kenosha, where they were met by a wall of law enforcement officers, including members of the Wisconsin National Guard.

Some clashed with officers and vandalized 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.

A city block was cordoned off Tuesday so officials could survey damage. Smoke filled the air and visibility was low as firefighters used water cannons on still smoldering 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.”

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson and U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil, both Republicans, called on the governor to do more to quell the unrest. Steil said he would request federal assistance if necessary.

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.

“I really ask you and encourage everyone in Wisconsin and abroad to take a moment and examine your hearts,“ Blake’s mother said. “Do Jacob justice on this level and examine your hearts. … 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.”

ting the deep partisan divide in Wisconsin, a key presidential battleground state. Wisconsin GOP members also decried the violent protests, echoing the law-and-order theme that President Donald Trump has been using in his reelection campaign.

“As always, the video currently circulating does not capture all the intricacies of a highly dynamic incident,” Pete Deates, president of the Kenosha police union, said in a statement. He called the governor’s statement “wholly irresponsible.”

The shooting happened around 5 p.m. Sunday and was captured from across the street on the video posted online.  Kenosha police do not have body cameras but do have body microphones.

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 pointed 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.

White, who said he made the video, said that before the gunfire, he looked out his window and saw six or seven women shouting at each other on the sidewalk. A few moments later, Blake drove up in his SUV and told his son, who was standing nearby, to get in the vehicle, according to White. White said Blake did not say anything to the women.

White said he left the window for a few minutes, and when he came back, saw three officers wrestling with Blake. One punched Blake in the ribs, and another used a stun gun on him, White said. He said Blake got free and started walking away as officers yelled about a knife.

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, representing Blake’s family, said Blake was “simply trying to do the right thing by intervening in a domestic incident.”

Police did not immediately confirm either man’s account.

Blake’s partner, Laquisha Booker, told NBC’s Milwaukee affiliate, WTMJ-TV, that the couple’s three children were in the back seat of the SUV when police shot him.

“That man just literally grabbed him by his shirt and looked the other way and was just shooting him. With the kids in the back screaming. Screaming,” Booker said.

Blake’s father told the Sun-Times that his son also has three other kids.

Blake’s grandfather, Jacob Blake Sr., was a prominent minister and civil rights leader in the Chicago area who helped organize a march and spoke in support of a comprehensive housing law in Evanston, Illinois, days after the 1968 slaying of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Rachel Noerdlinger, publicist for the National Action Network, told The Associated Press that the Rev. Al Sharpton spoke Monday to Blake’s father, who called the civil rights leader for his support. Blake’s father will speak at Sharpton’s March on Washington commemoration on Friday, Noerdlinger said.

Karissa Lewis, national field director of Movement for Black Lives, a coalition of more than 150 Black-led organizations that make up the broader Black Lives Matter movement, said the shooting was yet another example of why activists have called for defunding police departments.

“There’s no amount of training or reform that can teach a police officer that it’s wrong to shoot a Black man in the back seven times while his children watch,” Lewis said in a statement first shared with the AP.

Online court records indicate Kenosha County prosecutors charged Blake on July 6 with sexual assault, trespassing and disorderly conduct in connection with domestic abuse. An arrest warrant was issued the following day. The records contain no further details and do not list an attorney for Blake.

It was unclear whether that case had anything to do with the shooting.

Crump, who has also represented the Floyd and Taylor families, said Blake’s family has asked that demonstrations in response to his shooting remain peaceful.

“They don’t believe violence to be the solution,” he said.

For more than 100 years, Kenosha was an auto manufacturing center, but it has now largely been transformed into a bedroom community for Milwaukee and Chicago. The city is about 67% white, 11.5% Black and 17.6% Hispanic, according to 2019 Census data. Both the mayor and police chief are white. About 17% of the population lives in poverty.