Wisconsin DOJ releases some additional information on the shooting of Jacob Blake

Yesterday police released the name of the officer who shot Jacob Blake. He’s Officer Rusten Sheskey, who had been with the department for seven years. They also gave a few details about the incident including why police were called to the scene in the first place:

Sunday’s incident began when a woman called police saying “her boyfriend was present and was not supposed to be on the premises,” according to investigators.

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.”

That’s quite a different story than the one that was published by the Washington Post three days ago. At the time the Post quoted a woman who claimed the incident was “a fight between two women over a scratch on one of their cars.” Maybe that was some part of the argument but obviously the girlfriend’s 911 calls suggests she was worried that Blake was there at all.

A press release from the Wisconsin DOJ describes what happened when police arrived:

During the incident, officers attempted to arrest Jacob S. Blake, age 29. Law enforcement deployed a taser to attempt to stop Mr. Blake, however the taser was not successful in stopping Mr. Blake. Mr. Blake walked around his vehicle, opened the driver’s side door, and leaned forward. While holding onto Mr. Blake’s shirt, Officer Rusten Sheskey fired his service weapon 7 times. Officer Sheskey fired the weapon into Mr. Blake’s back. No other officer fired their weapon. Kenosha Police Department does not have body cameras, therefore the officers were not wearing body cameras…

During the investigation following the initial incident, Mr. Blake admitted that he had a knife in his possession. DCI agents recovered a knife from the driver’s side floorboard of Mr. Blake’s vehicle. A search of the vehicle located no additional weapons.

And that’s all we have at this point. Is the detail about the knife significant? It could be but it’s hard to tell at this point because the description is so vague. For instance, when exactly did Blake admit he had a knife? Was that when police first arrived and before they tried to arrest him? Was he armed during the encounter or not?

The man who shot the video of the shooting said he heard officers saying “Drop the knife! Drop the knife!” before the shooting, i.e. before Blake opened the car door. But he also said he didn’t see a knife in Blake’s hand. The Wisconsin DOJ says they found the knife in the car on the driver’s side floor. Did Blake drop it there when he was shot or was it inside the car the whole time? If it was in the car the whole time why were police yelling for him to “drop the knife” before he got to the car?

Based on what I’ve seen it sounds as if the officers believed he had a knife on him before he opened the car door. That would explain why they had their guns drawn. But if he had it the whole time, it doesn’t explain why officer Sheskey decided reaching into the car presented an escalation of the threat. He couldn’t have been reaching for a knife if he already had it on him and there wasn’t a gun.

Looking at the video again, it looks like Blake was trying to get in the car, not just reach inside. Maybe he was trying to drive away? I’m sure we’ll hear his explanation of what he was thinking eventually.

Here’s a local news report from Milwaukee’s Fox 6 on the new information: