After Jacob Blake was shot in the back seven times by a white police officer, Wisconsin activists took to the streets once more in a continuation of the riots and violence that have plagued the country since the death of George Floyd. The narrative emerged that here is yet another recent example of police brutality and wanton murder. How could police justify shooting a supposedly unarmed man in the back, protesters asked. But as with all events that are co-opted by a media desperate for a bloody headline, it seems there is, in fact, another side of the story left untold.
Just the Facts
Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old black man, was shot (not fatally) in the back by a police officer as he tried to get into his car. It has been suggested by lawyers speaking for his family that he may be paralyzed. Video footage of the shooting was swirling around social media almost immediately.
The footage – which appears to begin halfway through the altercation – shows Mr. Blake walking from the passenger side of a car to the driver’s side with an officer trying to subdue him. Mr. Blake then shrugs off the officer and reaches into the car. At this point, the officer (who has now been identified) pulls his weapon and shoots Blake in the back.
The riots and burning of Kenosha, WI, began shortly afterward.
The media narrative soon came to revolve around the idea that the police officers on the scene should have just subdued him. Footage that came out two days after, however, showed that law enforcement had attempted to do just that. The later video (filmed from a different angle) shows that Blake was on the floor and being restrained, but managed to get up.
To add confusion to the pot, many commentators suggested that perhaps Mr. Blake had a weapon in the car and that the officer was right to open fire in order to defend himself. This narrative was swiftly dismissed as lacking evidence. However, the theory was last night confirmed to be true.
The Wisconsin police department finally released details of the event.
The police were responding to a 911 call from Blake’s (presumably) former girlfriend, who said that he was on her premises and that he was not supposed to be. Upon arrival, officers attempted to subdue him with a taser, but that proved ineffective. Blake himself apparently stated that he had a knife, and it was later confirmed that a blade was on the driver’s side floor – the very place he was reaching for when he was shot.
Why was this information not released straight away? Why was a city allowed to burn when swift responses could have prevented the all-too-familiar devastation that followed?
Blake’s lawyer responded that his client posed no threat to the police and was not in possession of a knife.
As Kenosha burns, it seems not to matter who was right and who was wrong. The police attempted to subdue Blake with physical force and a taser before shooting him as he was – according to Attorney General Josh Kaul – reaching for a knife. If the police officers present had had better training in subduing suspects, they might not have had to shoot Blake at all.
And yet, businesses are destroyed, two further people have died in shootings since, and Kenosha is a burnt-out husk of what it once was.
No one is waiting for facts, and both sides seem willing to let their personalized conclusions drive their actions. Whatever the eventual truth may be, the innocent people of Wisconsin are the final victims.
Read more from Mark Angelides.