KENOSHA, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin’s governor summoned the National Guard for fear of another round of violent protests Monday after the police shooting of a Black man under murky circumstances turned Kenosha into the nation’s latest flashpoint city in a summer of racial unrest.
Democratic Gov. Tony Evers said 125 members of the National Guard would be in Kenosha by night with responsibility for “guarding infrastructure and making sure our firefighters and others involved are protected.” County authorities also announced an 8 p.m. curfew.
The move came after protesters set cars on fire, smashed windows and clashed with officers in riot gear Sunday night over the wounding of 29-year-old Jacob Blake, who was hospitalized in serious condition. In a widely seen cellphone video made by an onlooker, he was shot, apparently in the back, as he leaned into his SUV while his three children sat in the vehicle.
Police in the former auto manufacturing center of 100,000 people midway between Milwaukee and Chicago said they were responding to a call about a domestic dispute.
They did not immediately disclose the race of the three officers at the scene or say whether Blake was armed or why police opened fire, and they released no details on the domestic dispute.
A man who said he made the video, 22-year-old Raysean White, said that he saw Blake scuffling with three officers and heard them yell, “Drop the knife! Drop the knife!” before the gunfire erupted. He said he didn’t see a knife in Barnes’ hands.
The governor said that he has seen no information to suggest Blake had a knife or other weapon, but that the case is still being investigated by the state Justice Department.
The officers were placed on administrative leave, standard practice in a shooting by police.
Evers was quick to condemn the bloodshed, saying that while not all details were known, “what we know for certain is that he is not the first Black man or person to have been shot or injured or mercilessly killed at the hands of individuals in law enforcement in our state or our country.”
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden called for “an immediate, full and transparent investigation” and 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 already 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.”
Republicans and the police union accused the politicians of rushing to judgment, reflecting the deep partisan divide in Wisconsin, a key presidential battleground state. Wisconsin GOP members also decried the violent protests, echoing the law-and-order theme that President Donald Trump has been using in his reelection 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.”
The shooting happened around 5 p.m. Sunday and was captured from across the street on video that was posted online. Kenosha police do not have body cameras but do have body microphones.
In the footage, Blake walks from the sidewalk around the front of his SUV to his driver-side door as officers follow him with their guns pointed and shout at him. As Blake opens the door and leans into the SUV, an officer grabs his shirt from behind and opens fire while Blake has his back turned.
Seven shots can be heard, though it isn’t clear how many struck Blake or how many officers fired. During the shooting, a Black woman can be seen screaming in the street and jumping up and down.