As Jacob Blake was freed from handcuffs in the hospital, the Kenosha police union said Friday that Blake put an officer in a headlock moments before being shot in the back.
Since Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, was shot seven times in the back by a White officer, local officials have not discussed many details citing the ongoing investigation led by state investigators.
On Friday, the Kenosha Professional Police Association took issue with the public narrative, saying that he confronted officers, put an officer in a headlock and carried a knife that he refused to drop when ordered to by police, the union said.
For Blake’s attorneys, the police union’s narrative is merely a tactic to justify the officers’ actions.
“I think it’s the common strategy that police departments use in these type of circumstances. It’s always trying to justify murder for misdemeanors,” attorney B’Ivory LaMarr told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Friday.
The Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation, which is leading the shooting investigation, has said that Blake admitted he had a knife in his possession and law enforcement agents recovered one from the driver’s side floorboard of his vehicle.
State investigators offered an initial timeline of events a few days following the shooting and have not offered more details since then.
Police union allegations ‘overblown,’ attorney says
Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul said Friday that the police union’s version of events was made public by an attorney representing the union and “certain officers involved in the incident” and he would not confirm or deny the allegations.
“The Wisconsin Department of Justice is conducting a fair, impartial, and independent investigation into the shooting of Jacob S. Blake,” Kaul said in a statement.
Patrick Salvi Jr., one of Blake’s attorneys, has previously denied that Blake had a weapon in the car. On Friday, Salvi said the police union’s allegations were “overblown.”
“When they say that Mr. Blake initiated the physicality (and) Mr. Blake put an officer in a headlock that does not comport with the video from the passenger’s side of the car that shows police essentially beating him,” Salvi told CNN.
Raysean White, a man who recorded Blake being shot, said Friday that while he only saw part of the incident, he didn’t see Blake holding a knife or physically harming the officers.
“Blake was in the middle of the two male officers and they both had him in a headlock,” White told CNN on Friday. “The officer who shot him was punching him in his ribs and the other officer was pulling his arm.”
Blake has been left paralyzed from the waist down after he was shot multiple times by a Kenosha police officer who tried to detain him earlier this week. While he survived, his attorneys said, their conversations with him so far have been limited because Blake remains on heavy doses of pain medications while being treated for multiple injuries.
The allegations by the police union come as Blake’s family members joined thousands of people, including Martin Luther King III and the Rev. Al Sharpton, in Washington, DC, to call for social and political change during the “Get Your Knee Off Our Necks” march.
“We will not be a footstool to oppression, “Jacob Blake’s sister, Letetra Wideman, said to crowds in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington.
“Black America, I hold you accountable. You must stand. You must fight, but not with violence and chaos,” she said.
Blake was restrained amid sexual assault charges
The handcuffs that restrained Blake while in the hospital have been removed and a criminal warrant that authorities used to explain the restriction has been vacated, his attorneys told CNN.
“We have learned today that the warrants for Jacob Blake were vacated, although the charges against him are still pending. Fortunately, a man who is paralyzed and fighting for his life after being shot seven times in the back, will no longer have to deal with the pain of having his ankles and wrist shackled and the traumatic stress of being under armed guard,” Blake’s attorneys said in a statement.
Family members had said the sight of him tethered to the bed at a hospital in Wauwatosa was heartbreaking.
“Why do they have that cold steel on my son’s ankle?” his father, Jacob Blake Sr. asked Friday morning in an interview with CNN’s Alisyn Camerota on “New Day.” “He can’t get up, he couldn’t get up if he wanted to.”
Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Sgt. David Wright explained earlier that Blake was handcuffed to the bed because he “has felony warrants for his arrest from crimes he committed prior to the shooting incident.”
“Anyone with this classification level that we are guarding in the hospital would be treated in this manner,” Wright said in a statement.
In response to the statement from the sheriff’s office, Blake’s uncle, Justin Blake, told CNN, “It shows how little class and compassion the sheriff has.”
At the time of Sunday’s violent encounter with police, Blake had a warrant out for his arrest in connection to a domestic abuse call earlier this year. The charges against him remain pending on Friday, Blake’s attorneys said.
A dispatcher appeared to warn responding officers about Blake’s warrant, referring to “family trouble” at the residence in Kenosha and an “alert at this address for a ninety-nine.” The police code 10-99 can refer to a wanted suspect.
It’s unclear whether those officers knew about why there was an outstanding warrant against Blake when they arrived at the residence. The police union claimed that officers were aware of the warrant.
Blake had been accused of unlawfully entering a home on May 3 and sexually assaulting a woman in her bedroom before leaving with her vehicle, according to the criminal complaint obtained by CNN. She also waived a temporary restraining order against Blake.
CNN does not typically identify sexual assault victims.
The criminal complaint filed on July 6 listed charges of felony third-degree sexual assault and misdemeanor trespassing and disorderly conduct. The arrest warrant against Blake was filed the following day.
The Froedtert Hospital, where Blake is being treated, has deferred CNN’s questions to the Wisconsin Department of Justice. Kenosha police and the district attorney’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
“There is no explanation for it,” Blake family attorney Benjamin Crump said. “It follows the pattern of deliberate indifference and excessive force.”
“My son has not been afforded the rights of a human,” Jacob Blake Sr. said.
What investigators are saying about the shooting
Bystanders captured the shooting on cellphone video and shared the footage widely on social media, turning the lakeside city of Kenosha into the scene of nightly protests against police brutality.
Officer Rusten Sheskey fired into Blake’s back on Sunday while he was trying to enter a vehicle with his three children watching from the backseat.
“In his mind’s eye, he just wanted to get his sons out of harm’s way, but before he could get them out of the car he said he was just counting shots,” Blake’s father said. “He said he was counting them. I guess he lost consciousness around number four or five.”
The incident started when a woman called police and said “her boyfriend was present and was not supposed to be on the premises,” the DCI said.
In a police call, a dispatcher names Blake and says he “isn’t supposed to be there” and that he took the complainant’s keys and refused to leave. The dispatcher later explains she doesn’t have more details because the caller was “uncooperative.”
About five minutes after the initial report, a dispatcher received reports of shots fired, police said.
Officers had attempted to arrest Blake and used a Taser in a failed attempt to stop him, the DCI said. He walked around his vehicle, “opened the driver’s side door and leaned forward,” the agency said.
Sheskey has been with the department for seven years. No other officer fired their weapon. Sheskey and another officer have been placed on administrative leave.
State investigators did not indicate why police moved to arrest Blake, whether he brandished or threatened to use the knife, or why Sheskey shot so many times into Blake’s back. It does not mention his children in the vehicle or other family.
Two additional officers who were involved in the incident were Kenosha Police Officers Vincent Arenas and Brittany Meronek, the Wisconsin DOJ said Friday.
Arenas – who also used his Taser in an unsuccessful attempt to stop Blake, the statement says – has been with the Kenosha Police Department since February 2019, after previously serving with the US Capitol Police in Washington. Meronek joined the department in January, the statement said.
Videos of the incident show a struggle between Blake and police. He then walks around the front of an SUV and tries to enter the driver’s side door. An officer is seen pulling Blake’s tank top and seven shots are heard.
‘My son is fighting for his life’
A heavily medicated Jacob Blake clutched his father’s hand and wept after regaining consciousness.
“Why did they shoot me so many times?’ he asked Jacob Blake Sr.
“Baby, they weren’t supposed to shoot you at all,” the father responded, recalling the exchange during an interview with CNN.
Blake’s children, ranging in age from 3 to 8 years, watched the shooting from inside a car their father was stepping into as the officer opened fire. The oldest boy, who was supposed to celebrate a birthday the day his father was shot, also has questions.
“Papa, why did they shoot my daddy in the back?” Jacob Blake Sr. recalled the boy asking him. “Where’s daddy?”
Jacob Blake Sr. said his son has recounted what happened in bits and pieces. Crump said Blake has had several surgeries and suffered severe injuries, including damage to his bowels and internal organs, bullet fragments in his spinal cord and a shattered vertebrae.
“My son is fighting for his life,” the eldest Blake said. “He’s holding on.”
Jacob Blake Sr. said his son touches his arms and strokes his face and tells his father he loves him. At one point, they discussed Blake’s paralysis and the younger man said he wanted a dog.
“We’ll get you a dog, baby,” the father responded.
Jacob Blake Sr. recalled a conversation he had this week with Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and running mate Kamala Harris, comparing it “speaking to my uncle and one of my sisters.”
“They were so comforting that you almost forgot how the situation was really playing out,” he said, referring to Biden and Harris and calling them the president and the vice president.
He added, “President Biden kept telling me his own issues with his family. That he identifies with what I’m going through. I didn’t have to keep telling him. He knew. It felt like he knew. It felt like they knew what was going on. And they didn’t act like they were in a hurry to go anywhere. They spent time with us.”
Asked later in an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper if he wanted to hear from President Trump, Blake Sr. said, “It is too late. He should have called four days ago.” He added, “It is too late now.”
The eldest Blake, who recalled his father’s participation in the civil rights movement, expressed gratitude for the wave of protests among American athletes this week, from the National Basketball Association to the National Football League to Major League Baseball.
But he voiced opposition to violence and looting in the wake of police brutality and racism.
“That’s not going to make me son get up out of that bed and walk,” he said. “Only God could get him up out of the bed.”
A jersey signed by members of the Milwaukee Bucks brought a smile to his son’s face this week. But Jacob Blake Jr. has not spoken to his son about the unrest and violence on the streets of Kenosha or anything that could set back his recovery.
“No setbacks, baby,” he told his son this week. “No setbacks.”
“I got you, pops,” Blake said.
CORRECTION: This story has been corrected to reflect that Jacob Blake Sr. did not say he has spoken with President Trump. It also corrects the spelling of Letetra Wideman’s last name.
CNN’s Faith Karimi, Brad Parks, Raja Razek, Sara Sidner and Casey Tolan contributed to this report.