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Police association: Jacob Blake physically struggled with officers before shooting

Jacob Blake is no longer in restraints in the hospital, and more Kenosha officers identified Friday
Jacob Blake and his children
Jacob Blake and his children
Published: Aug. 28, 2020 at 5:56 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 28, 2020 at 7:35 PM CDT
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KENOSHA, Wis. (WBAY) - The Kenosha Professional Police Association is disputing reports on the police shooting of Jacob Blake, including reports from the state Department of Justice, which is handling the investigation of the shooting through its Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI).

An attorney for the police association released a statement Friday night saying an update from the DCI “is riddled with incomplete information, and omits important details.” The attorney also accuses Blake’s lawyers of “false and misleading ’facts.”

According to the police association, the initial call that brought officers there was that Blake was trying to steal the keys to the caller’s vehicle, and that the SUV Blake is seen entering in widely shared video was not Blake’s vehicle. It also says the responding officers were aware Blake had an open warrant for third-degree felony sexual assault before they were on the scene. When officers tried to speak to Blake, he wasn’t cooperative.

The police association says Blake got one of the officers in a headlock during a confrontation on the passenger side of the SUV. Two officers fired stun guns and neither of them stopped Blake.

The attorney says Blake was armed with a knife at that time. Although police initially weren’t aware of the knife, they saw him holding it before he walked around to the driver’s side of the SUV and were ordering him to drop the knife as he walked away from him. He ignored repeated verbal commands to drop the knife.

“The officers involved gave Mr. Blake numerous opportunities to comply,” the statement reads. “He chose not to.”

Video from a bystander shows a police officer, identified as Officer Rusten Sheskey, shooting Blake in the back while holding on to his shirt as Blake is getting into the driver’s door of the SUV. The DOJ says seven shots were fired. Blake’s family says his sons, ages 3, 5, and 8, were in the SUV.

Friday the DOJ identified two more officers who were at the scene of the Jacob Blake shooting in Kenosha. Investigators say Officer Vincent Arenas tried to use a taser on Blake after Sheskey tried the same thing. Officer Brittany Meronek was also at the scene. All three are on administrative leave.

Arenas has been with the department since February 2019 and previously served with the U.S. Capitol Police Department. Meronek joined the Kenosha police force in January.

The Wisconsin Department of Justice says Kenosha police were called by a woman who said her boyfriend was on the premises and wasn’t supposed to be there. The DOJ doesn’t specify that Blake was the boyfriend, and Blake’s family says he was there to break up a fight. The police association says he was not breaking up a fight when officers arrived.

The DOJ says Blake admitted having a knife in his possession but did not specify whether he was carrying it, reaching for it or had it in his car. State investigators found a knife was found on the driver’s side floor of the SUV.

Attorney General Josh Kaul on Friday did not say whether officers knew about the knife before the shooting. “We are not commenting on facts that may be disputed as this case moves forward. Ultimately this case is going to be presented after a full and thorough investigation to a prosecutor who is going to make a charging decision, and if there is a charge or charges that are filed in this case this is going to be tried in a court of law, and it’s our top priority to make sure we’re protecting the integrity of this investigation,” Kaul said.

Blake’s family and attorney say he is paralyzed from the waist down, and it may be permanent.

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump said Friday that Blake is no longer being kept in restraints at the hospital.

“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,” Crump said in a joint statement with co-counsels Patrick Salvi and B’Ivory Lamarr.

Online court records indicate Kenosha County prosecutors charged Blake on July 6 with sexual assault, trespassing and disorderly conduct in connection with domestic abuse. An arrest warrant was issued July 7.

The Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement that Blake was no longer in police custody because he had posted bond. As a result, the “hospital watch,” in which deputies were stationed at the hospital, was discontinued.

The sheriff’s office released this statement: “MCSO worked very closely with the hospital and Mr. Blake’s legal team to ensure a safe and dignified environment for Mr. Blake, consistent with best law enforcement and hospital practices for security and visitation. Earlier today, Mr. Blake posted the bond underlying the arrest warrant, enabling his release from custody. The hospital watch was discontinued immediately after receiving this information from Kenosha authorities.”

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