KENOSHA, Wis. (CNN) — Nearly a week since the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin, Blake’s uncle said the police union’s version of events is “garbage” and “insulting.”
Justin Blake says his nephew didn’t have a weapon and “didn’t deserve to be shot seven times in his back.”
“We’re not going to allow them to come back a week later and talk about some type of weapon being involved after they temporarily paralyzed my nephew,” Blake said Friday. “As his uncle, that’s insulting.”
Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, was shot while leaning into his vehicle by a White Kenosha officer on August 23. A family attorney said Blake’s three children were in the car.
His uncle’s fiery response camehours after the union representing the officer released what they called the “actual and undisputed” facts of what led to the shooting — details they say even state investigators omitted or left incomplete.
Family attorney says Blake never posed ‘imminent threat’
In a Friday statement, the Kenosha Professional Police Association took issue with previous public narratives, saying that Blake forcefully fought with officers trying to arrest him; put one in a headlock; and carried a knife that he refused to drop when officers ordered him to do so.
“Mr. Blake was not unarmed. He was armed with a knife,” the union wrote.
Authorities have said Officer Rusten Sheskey eventually shot Blake while Blake was trying to enter and leaning into a vehicle.
State investigators previously have said Blake admitted he had a knife in his possession, and law enforcement agents recovered one from the driver’s side floorboard of his vehicle.
The union also echoed what state investigators have said: That two officers fired a Taser at Blake in the initial struggle, but the Taser didn’t incapacitate him.
Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul said Friday that the police union’s version of events was made public by an attorney representing the union and “certain officers involved in the incident” and he would not confirm or deny the union’s allegations.
“The Wisconsin Department of Justice is conducting a fair, impartial, and independent investigation into the shooting of Jacob S. Blake,” Kaul said in a statement.
Blake’s uncle, when asked about the union’s accusation about the headlock, said Friday: “Our family is not going to get into weeds on some garbage.”
Blake never posed an “imminent threat” to the officers on scene, a family attorney said.
“When they say that Mr. Blake initiated the physicality (and) Mr. Blake put an officer in a headlock, that does not comport with the video from the passenger’s side of the car that shows police essentially beating him,” Patrick Salvi Jr. told CNN.
Raysean White, a man who recorded a widely circulated video of Blake being shot, said Friday that while he only saw part of the incident, he didn’t see Blake holding a knife or physically harming the officers.
White said he saw officers had Blake in a headlock while one was “punching him in his ribs.”
White’s recording, along with a second eyewitness video that was released following the shooting, may be the only clips capturing the moments before the officer fired at Blake. Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian said earlier this week police do not have body cameras and he has not given any update on whether police dashcams captured the incident.
Body cameras, the mayor said, are in the budget for 2022.
Blake’s family says nothing he did can justify the seven close-range shots. Blake has since been in a hospital, where his family says he was handcuffed to his bed until Friday. He is paralyzed from the waist down, the family says.
The initial call to police, and a previous warrant for Blake’s arrest
The Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI), which is leading the investigation into the shooting, has said the August 23 incident started when a woman called police and said “her boyfriend was present and was not supposed to be on the premises.”
In a police call, a dispatcher relayed that the complainant accused Blake of taking the complainant’s keysand refusing to leave. The dispatcher later explains she doesn’t have more details because the caller was “uncooperative.”
At the time, Blake had a warrant out for his arrest in connection with earlier allegations that he unlawfully entered a home and committed felony sexual assault this year.
The dispatcher appeared to warn officers about Blake’s warrant, referring to “family trouble” at the residence in Kenosha and an “alert at this address for a ninety-nine.” The police code 10-99 can refer to a wanted suspect.
It’s unclear whether those officers knew about why there was an outstanding warrant against Blake when they arrived at the residence. The police union claimed that officers were aware of the warrant.
“If he had outstanding warrants… then they should have arrested him,” Blake’s uncle said Friday, “not shot him in the damn back seven times.”
The police union said Friday that Blake was not breaking up a fight at the time officers arrived. One of Blake’s attorneys had said Blake was trying to leave the scene after “breaking up a fight between two women.”
What investigators and the police union are saying about the shooting
Bystanders captured the shooting on cellphone video and shared the footage widely on social media, turning the lakeside city of Kenosha into the scene of nightly protests against police brutality.
The DCI has said three officers initially tried to arrest Blake upon arriving, and that both Sheskey and Officer Vincent Arenas deployed Tasers.
The police union said the officers used the Tasers only after Blake refused to cooperate when they arrived, disregarded commands, and then resisted officers’ physical attempts to control him.
Both attempts to stop Blake with Tasers failed, the DCI said.
The police union said Friday that the officers didn’t initially see the knife, but eventually did see him holding it while they were on the SUV’s passenger side.
Videos of the incident show a struggle between Blake and police on the SUV’s passenger side. He then walks around the front of the SUV and tries to enter the driver’s side door. An officer is seen pulling Blake’s tank top and seven shots are heard.
While the DCI has said that law enforcement agents recovered a knife from the driver’s side floorboard of the vehicle, it has not indicated whether Blake brandished or threatened to use the knife, or why Sheskey shot Blake so many times. Its account has not mentioned his children in the vehicle.
The union also said the SUV was not Blake’s vehicle. It wasn’t immediately clear whose vehicle it was.
Sheskey has been with the department for seven years. No other officer fired their gun. Sheskey and another officer have been placed on administrative leave.
Previous charges against Blake are ‘still pending,’ though he is no longer in handcuffs
Blake’s handcuffs have been removed and the criminal warrant authorities used to explain the restriction has been vacated, “although the charges against him are still pending,” Blake’s attorneys said.
“Fortunately, a man who is paralyzed and fighting for his life after being shot seven times in the back, will no longer have to deal with the pain of having his ankles and wrist shackled and the traumatic stress of being under armed guard,” they said in a statement.
Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Sgt. David Wright said Blake was handcuffed to the bed because the previous felony warrant had been active, and “anyone with this classification level that we are guarding in the hospital would be treated in this manner.”
Blake had been accused of unlawfully entering a home on May 3 and sexually assaulting a woman in her bedroom before leaving with her vehicle, according to the criminal complaint obtained by CNN. She also waived a temporary restraining order against Blake.
CNN does not typically identify sexual assault victims.
The criminal complaint filed on July 6 listed charges of felony third-degree sexual assault and misdemeanor trespassing and disorderly conduct. The arrest warrant against Blake was filed the following day.
In response to authorities’ explanation about the shackles at the hospital, Blake’s uncle told CNN: “It shows how little class and compassion the sheriff has.”
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