Ben Handelman, Fox 6, August 29, 2020
The Kenosha police union on Friday offered the most detailed accounting to date on officers’ perspective of the moments leading up to police shooting Jacob Blake seven times in the back, saying he had a knife and fought with officers, putting one of them in a headlock and shrugging off two attempts to stun him.
The statement from Brendan Matthews, attorney for the Kenosha Professional Police Association, goes into more detail than anything that’s been released by the Wisconsin Department of Justice, which is investigating.
Cellphone video shows Kenosha Police Officer Rusten Sheskey and another officer following Blake with their guns drawn as he walks around the front of a parked SUV as they responded to a domestic dispute.
According to Matthews, the officers were dispatched there because of a complaint that Blake was attempting to steal the caller’s keys and vehicle. Matthews said officers were aware that Blake had an open warrant for felony sexual assault before they arrived.
Blake was armed with a knife, but officers did not initially see it, Matthews said.
“The officers first saw him holding the knife while they were on the passenger side of the vehicle,” he said.
The bystander who recorded 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 gunfire erupted. He said he didn’t see a knife in Blake’s hands. State investigators have said only that officers saw a knife on the floor of the car. They have not said whether Blake threatened anyone with it.
Matthews said officers made multiple requests to Blake to drop the knife, but he was uncooperative. He said officers used a Taser on Blake, but it did not incapacitate him.
“Blake forcefully fought with the officers, including putting one of the officers in a headlock,” Matthews said. A second stun from a Taser also did not stop him, he said.
As Blake opened the driver’s door of the SUV, Sheskey pulled on Blake’s shirt and then opened fire. Blake’s three children were in the backseat.
“Based on the inability to gain compliance and control after using verbal, physical and less-lethal means, the officers drew their firearms,” Matthews said. “Mr. Blake continued to ignore the officers’ commands, even with the threat of lethal force now present.”
The Wisconsin Department of Justice had no immediate comment on the union’s version of events. An attorney for Blake’s family did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment.