The Wisconsin Department of Justice on Wednesday thoroughly debunked several myths that have already arisen about the shooting of Jacob Blake by a Kenosha Police officer.
First, Blake was not "trying to break up a fight between two women." He was, according to Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul, trespassing on his girlfriend's property.
"Kenosha Police Department officers were dispatched to a residence in the 2800 block of 40th Street after a female caller reported that her boyfriend [Blake] was present and was not supposed to be on the premises," Kaul said.
Second, officers did not "immediately escalate the situation" and "immediately use deadly force."
"Law enforcement deployed a taser to attempt to stop Mr. Blake, however the taser was not successful in stopping Mr. Blake," Kaul explained.
Third, Blake was not unarmed.
"During the investigation following the initial incident, Mr. Blake admitted that he had a knife in his possession," Kaul said. "Division of Criminal Investigation agents recovered a knife from the driver’s side floorboard of Mr. Blake’s vehicle."
Blake was either reaching for that knife when Kaul said he "opened the driver’s side door" of his SUV "and leaned forward." Kaul made sure to add that detail because it was clear that Blake was not, as the unfounded narrative has suggested, trying to get into his vehicle and peacefully drive away. He was lunging for something that the officer reasonably believed to be a weapon--either the knife that was recovered or another weapon such as a gun that was potentially in the vehicle.
After wrestling with and tasing an extremely combative Blake, video of the incident captured someone on the increasingly chaotic scene repeatedly screaming something that sounds like either "get my son" or "get my gun." At that point, Blake began walking purposefully to the driver's side of his car.
Another video of the incident which has gone viral and prompted days of rioting in Kenosha shows officers repeatedly yelling at Blake to "drop the knife." The man who shot that video confirmed this.
"I heard them telling him, 'Drop the knife' when I was recording, and looking, I didn't see a knife," the man who shot that video told FOX 6 News in Milwaukee. "I was looking at his hands. When they said, 'Drop the knife,' I didn't see one."
His video, however, seems to tell a different story. At exactly seven seconds in, the video clearly shows Blake holding something in his left hand, which he then tries to conceal in his pants. Could it have been a deeply curved blade known as a Karambit Knife?
Kaul did not describe the knife that Blake admitted he had and did not say whether Blake had the knife in his hand when he was fighting with officers, but the video seems to show that he did. This would explain why the officers trained their guns on him and did not attempt to tackle him or otherwise prevent him from walking toward the SUV.
A potentially armed and definitely violent man was now walking purposefully toward a vehicle as someone was screaming about getting a gun. Making matters even more dangerous, numerous children were in the vehicle. Since officers were called to the scene for a domestic dispute, it was entirely reasonable to believe that those children would be in danger. Blake had an outstanding arrest warrant for criminal trespass and third degree sexual assault.
According to a criminal complaint, in May he illegally entered his girlfriend's apartment, found her on a bed, and told her "I want my s***." As she "lay there, on her back, the defendant, suddenly and without warning, reached his hand between her legs, penetrated her vaginally with a finger, pulled it out and sniffed it, and said, 'Smells like you've been with other men.'"
Her young son was sleeping next to her at the time.
Blake then allegedly stole her SUV and debit card before making "two fraudulent ATM withdrawals." As a result of this, Blake was "not supposed to be" at the home, which Kaul noted in his press conference Wednesday.
His prior conduct (which may or may not have been known to officers on the scene Sunday) suggested that he would have no problem engaging in extreme criminal conduct in front of his children, and walking either with a knife or to get his knife put both them and the officers in danger.
When Blake opened the SUV's door, he did not calmly enter but rather "leaned forward," as Kaul put it. Video showed him clearly lunging for something inside the vehicle (either the knife or what the officer reasonably feared was another weapon).
The officer, of course, couldn't let him do that, and pulled his shirt to keep him from reaching whatever it is he was reaching for and then opened fire until the threat (Blake arming himself or striking with the knife already in his hand) was neutralized.
Law enforcement officers are authorized to use deadly force when they perceive that a subject is an imminent threat of causing the officer or another person death or substantial bodily harm. Given that Blake had just physically fought officers, potentially had a knife in his hand, and was lunging for something in a vehicle full of children, he clearly presented an imminent threat.
Once an imminent threat is established, law enforcement officers are authorized to use force necessary to neutralize that threat--meaning that firing a service weapon as many times as necessary to stop the threat is justified. If it took seven shots to neutralize the imminent threat that Jacob Blake posed to the officers or children (or anyone else on the scene, for that matter), then shooting Blake seven times would be justified.
It isn't yet clear whether that shooting will be ruled justified, but the immediately available evidence seems to suggest that it was.