Updates From Kenosha, Wisconsin Following Jacob Blake Shooting
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
It's been nearly a week since the police shooting of Jacob Blake, the 29-year-old Black man in Kenosha, Wis., but the authorities have released very few details about events led up - leading up to the shooting. A widely seen cellphone video captured the shooting itself but not what led up to it. Now the union that represents the officers involved in the shooting is presenting their version of what happened that afternoon. NPR's David Schaper joins us. David, thanks for being with us.
DAVID SCHAPER, BYLINE: My pleasure, Scott.
SIMON: Jacob Blake's lawyers said he was breaking up a fight, then tried to walk away. What does the union say happened?
SCHAPER: Well, the Kenosha Professional Police Association says that Blake was not at all breaking up a fight. He was wanted on a warrant. He was armed with a knife. He was uncooperative, noncompliant, resisting officers' attempts to gain compliance. They twice shot Tasers at him, but the Tasers failed to subdue him. The union statement goes on to say that Blake fought with the officers who - and put one of them in a headlock before breaking free and trying to get back into a vehicle.
Based on the inability to gain compliance and control after using verbal, physical and less lethal methods, the officers drew their weapons, the statement says, adding that, quote, "Mr. Blake continued to ignore the officers' commands, even with the threat of lethal force now present."
SIMON: And how have the lawyers for the Blake family responded?
SCHAPER: Well, in an interview on CNN last night, Blake attorney Patrick Cafferty called the union's description overblown. He says that witnesses on the scene have told them that the police were the aggressors, that they almost immediately got physical with Blake and took him down to the ground and tased him.
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PATRICK CAFFERTY: And as he tried to get away from them and walk around the van and tried to get away from the situation - that is, at a time when he was posing no imminent threat - they shot him in the back point-blank seven times.
SIMON: David, any response or statements from the Kenosha Police Department and state investigators?
SCHAPER: They do say that there was a knife found in the vehicle after the shooting, but they haven't said if Jacob Blake was brandishing that knife before the shooting happened. Police have also confirmed that there was a warrant issued for Blake back in July, and that outstanding warrant was part of the reason they were trying to arrest him. And they acknowledge that even though he is paralyzed, he was handcuffed to the rail of his hospital bed while under a 24-hour police guard. That - because of he was under arrest. But attorneys for Blake say a $500 bail has been posted, so the handcuffs were removed yesterday and he is no longer under that guard.
SIMON: Of course, there was also another shooting Tuesday night during the protests in Kenosha. And police have arrested 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, who's charged with shooting and killing two people and injuring a third. What's the latest on that case?
SCHAPER: Well, you know, he was supposed to appear in court for an extradition hearing, but the judge granted a one-month delay in that as his family organizes attorneys to represent him. One of those attorneys who's apparently representing him, Lin Wood, a high-profile defense attorney from Atlanta, says the video will show that he acted in self-defense.
Meanwhile, Kenosha police are taking a lot of heat for being seen in videos appearing to be supportive of armed vigilantes, including Rittenhouse, before the shootings, and after for allowing Rittenhouse to walk right by several police vehicles with his assault rifle slung over his shoulder. Police Chief Daniel Miskinis defends his officers, saying it was a chaotic situation and Rittenhouse didn't appear to be a threatening suspect.
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DANIEL MISKINIS: There were a lot of people in the area, a lot of people with weapons, and, unfortunately, a lot of gunfire.
SCHAPER: That response is angering a lot of people here who said had it been a Black man walking toward them with a semi-automatic rifle - would've at least been arrested, if not shot.
SIMON: NPR's David Schaper, thanks so much.
SCHAPER: My pleasure, Scott.
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