Wisconsin’s governor on Monday deployed the National Guard to the town of Kenosha, where police officers shot a Black man from behind as he walked to his car on Sunday evening, triggering protests overnight.
In an incident filmed and shared on social media, 29-year-old Jacob Blake is seen walking away from several police officers. When he opens the car door, an officer grabs his shirt and then shoots him several times from behind.
Blake is in serious condition at a hospital in Milwaukee, according to a statement tweeted by the Kenosha Police Department. Officers were on the scene responding to a “domestic incident,” police added.
Blake’s family members have said on social media that he is out of surgery and is in stable condition.
Civil rights attorney Ben said that Blake’s three sons were in the car at the time of the shooting.
“Jacob Blake was shot in the back seven times in front of his children,” Wisconsin’s Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes said in a press conference Monday. “This wasn’t an accident. This wasn’t bad police work. This felt like some sort of vendetta being taken out on a member of our community. The officer’s deadly actions attempted to take a person’s life in broad daylight.”
Gov. Tony Evers announced that 125 National Guard members will be deployed to Kenosha County by Monday evening to “support local law enforcement” after the shooting sparked overnight demonstrations during which police used tear gas against protesters.
“Every person should be able to express their anger and frustration by exercising their First Amendment rights and report on these calls to action without any fear of being unsafe,” Evers said in a statement.
He added that this was a “limited mobilization of the National Guard” that was focused on protecting critical infrastructure and to ensure “Kenoshians are able to assemble safely.”
Kenosha County declared an emergency curfew for Monday, ordering the public to “be off the streets for their safety” from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. Tuesday.
The officers involved in the shooting have been placed on administrative leave, but have not yet been identified by officials.
The Wisconsin Department of Justice said that its Division of Criminal Investigation will be investigating the shooting.
“The Wisconsin Department of Justice is vigorously and thoroughly investigating yesterday’s officer-involved shooting in Kenosha,” Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul said in a statement. “I hope for a full recovery for the man fighting for his life.”
Kaul added that the DOJ will work closely with the Kenosha County District Attorney’s Office, which will make the decision on whether to file charges in the case.
In a tweet, a man who was identified as Blake’s cousin said Blake was in the ICU.
“We will not excuse the actions of the Kenosha Police department, but his mother asks everyone to please remain peaceful,” his cousin said.
“No matter what the fuck they say doesn’t justify shooting my son in the back eight times,” his father, Jacob Blake III, said in an Instagram video.
Blake’s aunt shared her reaction to the video on Facebook saying, “My nephew. I am shaking like a leaf but…I would be too for any human being I never saw anything like this in all my years as a criminal lawyer. Not…even…close. You…wouldn’t shoot a dog like this. My people are beneath contempt in police departments around the country.”
After the shooting on Sunday, Gov. Evers said that he “stands against the use of excessive force and immediate escalation” against Black people in Wisconsin and promised action.
On Monday, Evers announced a special session of the state legislature to convene on Aug. 31 in order to take up a package of legislation that he had previously proposed “to increase accountability and transparency in policing in Wisconsin.”
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden called for an “immediate, full and transparent investigation” and for the police officers to be held accountable.
“Yesterday in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Jacob Blake was shot seven times in the back as police attempted to restrain him from getting into his car. His children watched from inside the car and bystanders watched in disbelief. And this morning, the nation wakes up yet again with grief and outrage that yet another Black American is a victim of excessive force,” Biden said in a statement. “These shots pierce the soul of our nation.”
People began protesting in Kenosha starting Sunday night, and a citywide curfew was issued for 7 a.m. Kenosha police said they received numerous calls about armed robberies and shootings. According to the Associated Press, police used tear gas on protesters who didn’t leave following the announcement of the curfew.
In a series of tweets responding to the shooting, David Crowley, the Milwaukee county executive, said that “as a father of young Black children I understand the fierce urgency in which communities of color are demanding change.”
In a statement provided to BuzzFeed News, Crowley offered scathing criticism of the “systemic racism” entrenched in state and local institutions.
“Make no mistake, Blake’s wounds are the result of systemic racism, the policies and practices that entangle our institutions and produce racially disparate outcomes, regardless of the intentions of people who work within them,” the statement said.
Crowley urged state and local leaders to “follow the lead of Milwaukee County in declaring racism as a public health crisis.”
“We must listen to the voice of the people and take action to prevent the unnecessary loss of Black lives at the hands of the police,” Crowley said in a tweet. “I stand with my brothers & sisters standing up for Black lives and making their voices heard.”
Correction: Tony Evers is the governor of Wisconsin. A previous version of this article misstated the location.