Jacob Blake paralyzed from waist down after police shooting, father says

Jacob Blake, the black man shot by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, has been paralyzed from the waist down, his father said, after protesters were met with police using teargas and flash-bang grenades on Monday night.

Kenosha became the latest flashpoint in a summer of racial unrest in the US, after footage of police shooting Blake, apparently in the back and as he leaned into his SUV with his three children inside, circulated widely on social media on Sunday. The 29-year-old remains in hospital.

The shooting drew condemnation from the Democratic governor, Tony Evers, who called out 125 members of the national guard on Monday. As the protests stretched beyond an 8pm curfew, some protesters lit fires, threw bottles and shot fireworks at law enforcement guarding the courthouse.

Blake’s father, also called Jacob Blake, told the Chicago Sun Times his son had “eight holes” in his body and was paralysed from the waist down. It was unclear if the paralysis would be permanent.

“What justified all those shots?” Blake’s father said. “What justified doing that in front of my grandsons? What are we doing?”

Jacob Blake Sr said he was traveling to Kenosha from North Carolina.

“I want to put my hand on my son’s cheek and kiss him on his forehead, and then I’ll be OK,” he said. “I’ll kiss him with my mask. The first thing I want to do is touch my son.”

Protesters poured into the streets for a second night running on Monday. Police first fired teargas about 30 minutes after the curfew took effect, to disperse protesters who chanted, “No justice, no peace” as they confronted a line of officers in protective gear, shoulder-to-shoulder in front of the courthouse entrance.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that some people lit fireworks and threw them at law enforcement. Sheriff’s deputies responded with smoke bombs and flash-bang grenades, the newspaper said. Several buildings were set on fire, including a Wisconsin department of corrections building.

According to the Wisconsin State Journal, some businesses along Main Street had windows broken. The Journal reported that a group of what appeared to be counter-protesters, some carrying guns and one wearing a red Make America Great Again hat, were present.

Tensions had flared earlier after a news conference with the Kenosha mayor, John Antarmian, originally to be held in a park, was moved inside the public safety building. Hundreds of protesters rushed to the building and a door was snapped off its hinges before police in riot gear pepper-sprayed the crowd, which included a photographer from the Associated Press.

The man who said he recorded the cellphone video of 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 the gunfire started. White said he did not see a knife in Blake’s hands.

Governor Evers said he had seen no information to suggest Blake had a knife or other weapon, but that the case was still being investigated by the state justice department.

Police in Kenosha, a former auto manufacturing city of 100,000 people midway between Milwaukee and Chicago, said they were responding to a call about a domestic dispute when they encountered Blake.

They did not say if he was armed or why police opened fire, released no details on the dispute, and did not immediately disclose the race of the three officers at the scene.

The officers were placed on administrative leave, standard practice in a shooting by police. Authorities released no details and did not immediately respond to requests for service records.

Evers was quick to condemn the bloodshed, saying that while not all details were known, Blake was not the first black man or person to have been shot, injured or killed by in law enforcement in the state or country.

The Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden, said the officers must be held accountable.

“This morning, the nation wakes up yet again with grief and outrage that yet another black American is a victim of excessive force,” he said, just over two months before election day in a country roiled by the recent deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta and Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky.

“Those shots pierce the soul of our nation,” Biden said.

On Monday night the NBA star LeBron James also commented.

“I know people get tired of hearing me say it, but we are scared as black people in America,” he said. “Black men, black women, black kids, we are terrified.”

Republicans and the police union accused politicians of rushing to judgment, reflecting the deep partisan divide in a key presidential battleground state.

Wisconsin Republicans also decried the violent protests, echoing the law-and-order theme that Donald Trump has been using in his re-election campaign.

“As always, the video currently circulating does not capture all the intricacies of a highly dynamic incident,” Pete Deates, president of the Kenosha police union, said in a statement. He called the governor’s statement wholly irresponsible.

On Tuesday, Zach Rodriguez, a member of Kenosha county board of supervisors, said it was seeking federal help, such as US Marshals Service officers.

“Essentially, our city was burned to the ground, building by building,” he said. “Enough is enough.”

Kenosha police do not have body cameras but do wear body microphones. The bystander footage of the shooting of Blake shows him walking from the sidewalk around the front of his SUV to his driver-side door, as officers follow with their guns pointed, shouting. As Blake opens the door and leans into the SUV, an officer grabs his shirt from behind and opens.

Seven shots can be heard. It is not clear how many struck Blake or how many officers fired.