KENOSHA, Wis. – 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 Blake’s younger 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.”