DOJ provides update on shooting, President Trump says he’ll meet with Blake family’s pastor as family calls for justice

Published: Sep. 1, 2020 at 6:20 AM CDT|Updated: Sep. 1, 2020 at 4:46 PM CDT
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KENOSHA, Wis. (WBAY) - President Donald Trump visited Kenosha Tuesday, a week after violence erupted in the streets in response to the police shooting of Jacob Blake.

President Trump met with law enforcement and surveying damage caused by three nights of turmoil in which businesses were burned and people were killed on the streets.

His trip and remarks to the public were focused on rebuilding Kenosha, financial help for businesses and thanking law enforcement and the National Guard.

“This is going to heal very quickly. We’re going to help them from an economic standpoint and we’re going to make a contribution to your law, and to what we call law and order. Some people think those are terrible words, law and order. They’re not terrible at all. They’re beautiful. They have to be used judiciously,” Trump said.

The President arrived in Kenosha shortly after 12 p.m. on Tuesday, and was met by several dozen supporters who gathered at an area damaged during the unrest. He then toured parts of Kenosha that burned during the riots, and also met people who lost their businesses, including a 109-year-old camera shop, one of the oldest in the nation.

In addition, he made a stop at the emergency operations center in the city, which was surrounded by law enforcement and Guard members, and thanked them for their work before participating in a “Wisconsin Community Safety Roundtable,” which was made of some of the officers, state and Congressional lawmakers, and Kenosha business leaders.

President Donald Trump says he’s committed to helping Kenosha, Wisconsin, and is promising more federal resources for police and small businesses.

“It’s an honor to be in your great state, Wisconsin, and we’re here for you all the way. Some people thought it would be a good thing for me to come, a bad thing... I just wanted to come really to thank law enforcement, and really, what you’ve done has been incredible. Really inspiring because you see it happening all over and it never seems to end,” said Trump.

Trump says the federal government will provide $1 million to local law enforcement, $4 million for small businesses and $42 million to support public safety statewide.

It’s unclear how much of that money was on top of funds already appropriated by Congress to the state.

“These are great people. These are brave people. They’re fighting to save people they’ve never met before in many cases and they’re incredible. We must really be thankful we have them and we have to help them do their jobs. We can’t be threatening them with their pensions gonna be taken away, their jobs being taken away,” said Trump.

Although there wasn’t a discussion about race relations during the roundtable, before he started his trip Tuesday morning, the president was asked if he’d like to bridge racial divides. He responded by saying “Yeah, I would”, but did not elaborate.

According to Attorney General Bill Barr, who traveled with the president, as well as U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) and U.S. Rep Bryan Steil (R-Wisconsin), the $41 million will be in grant awards to the state of Wisconsin and local jurisdictions within the state.

Barr’s office says awards will support community-based crime-fighting initiatives, local victim service programs, as well as the hiring and training of law enforcement officers and prosecutors.

“Thanks to the efforts of federal law enforcement and the National Guard, working closely with our state and local partners, the streets of Kenosha have been restored from violent agitators who have abused their First Amendment rights to frighten citizens and fan the flames of disorder,” said Attorney General Barr. “As President Trump made abundantly clear today, this lawless behavior will not be allowed to stand and the federal government will provide the necessary resources to help state and local police officers who have worked hard to maintain peace and keep violence at bay. Today’s grant money will help to bolster community-based crime-fighting initiatives and provide much needed support to victims affected by the recent violence.”

The President’s visit comes on the same day as an update from the DOJ on the investigation into the officer involved shooting of Jacob Blake.

According to the DOJ, the Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) and the FBI have so far issued four search warrants and collected 102 evidence items, and have also done interviews with 88 witnesses.

In addition, officials say they have downloaded 28 videos to review, and more than 600 hours have been dedicated to working on the case as of Saturday, August 29.

Only two cellphone videos that captured the Aug. 23 shooting have been widely distributed over social media. The state Justice Department did not describe what was seen on any of the videos.

The DOJ says the DCI is aiming to provide a report of the incident to the prosecutor within 30 days, and once the prosecutor reviews the report, a decision will be made about what charges, if any, are appropriate.

Authorities add if the prosecutor determines there isn’t a basis for prosecution of the law enforcement officer, the DCI will make the report available to the public.

President Trump visits Kenosha

FIRST ALERT: President Trump is visiting law enforcement officials in Kenosha.

Posted by WBAY TV-2 on Tuesday, September 1, 2020

In addition, President Trump now says he will meet with the Blake family’s pastor while he is in the area.

On Monday, Blake’s father said the family doesn’t have a pastor, but multiple administration officials have said that the White House has been in contact with Blake’s mother’s pastor.

“I’m going to meet him in a little while. He represents the family. And I think it’s probably better off if it’s handled locally right now,” Trump said. “It’s under investigation as you know, so I think it’s much better – I actually suggested we handle it locally.” It’s not clear if the President is referring to the meeting with Blake family representatives.

“I was going to speak to the mother yesterday,” Trump said, referring to Blake’s mother. “I hear she’s a very fine woman, I was going to speak to her, but then I hear there are a lot of lawyers on the phone, but I said I have enough lawyers in my life.”

Trump said he looks “forward to” meeting with the pastor.

“This is going to heal very quickly,” Trump said, of the overall situation in Kenosha. “We’re going to help them from an economic standpoint.” The President continued speaking, but the rest of his comments were cut out due to signal issues.

The president has claimed he was the one responsible for quelling violence in the city by sending in the National Guard. However, Wisconsin’s governor sent in the National Guard days prior to the president’s call for more law enforcement on the streets.

“When I called the governor I wish he would have accepted night one instead of night three. Because night one, those stores would still be up. But he’s better than many. He accepted, in all fairness to the governor, he accepted. And when he accepted it all ended. So I want to thank the governor and I want to thank everybody. But in particular, I want to thank the police and the great people from law enforcement. They’ve done a fantastic job,” said Trump.

Trump says he insisted on the National Guard going into Kenosha, but state and local officials say troops were sent in the Monday after the shooting of Blake. Gov. Tony Evers increased the response as violence continued for three nights in the city. National Guard deployment is under the authority of the states. National Guard troops from other states responded to Kenosha as part of a pact between states. The president has the power to invoke the Insurrection Act to send in additional federal forces, but that has not happened under the Trump administration.

Prior to the president’s visit, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and members of the Blake family held a Justice for Jacob event in Kenosha.

Blake’s family organized a block party and rally in hopes of celebrating the Kenosha community.

A community clean-up event, healing circle, and voter registration booth were all held at the block party and rally.

It was the second “Justice for Jacob” event held in the past four days.

“So we’re here today in our community not only healing our family, Blake Family, but this is our family. Kenosha’s our family now. And we wanna help them heal as well,” said Justin Blake, Jacob’s uncle.

He also made a plea for violence to end and for people to unite behind the goal of seeking justice, change and equality.

“We’re asking people not to be violent, not to destroy our community, but in the same breath, we’re asking you to stand with the Blake family. Come on over here. We’re not mad at you. We understand why you’re angry and upset. And we can see why you would want to burn something down, but we’re asking you not to. That fist that you put up in anger, we’re asking you to raise up high in unity and come on board with the Blakes. We’re going to make some big changes that affect all the little Jakes,” said Justin Blake.

Justin Blake also sounded off on Trump’s visit to the area.

“All I ask is that he keep his disrespect, his foul language far away from our family. We need a president that’s going to unite our country and take us in a different direction. We want the same rights he got, and we want to be able to get our children home safely. They should be able to go anywhere in this nation and come back home safely, and not get shot seven times,” said Justin Blake.

Justice for Jacob Blake Event

The Jacob Blake family is holding a Justice for Jacob Blake event ahead of the president's visit to Kenosha.

Posted by WBAY TV-2 on Tuesday, September 1, 2020

The violence culminated last Tuesday with a deadly shooting on the streets. A 17-year-old from Illinois, armed with a long gun, shot and killed two people in Kenosha and injured a third. Kyle Rittenhouse of Antioch, Ill., is charged with two counts of homicide and one count of attempted homicide. He’s being held in an Illinois jail as he awaits extradition to Wisconsin.

In a tweet, President Trump claims “there would be no Kenosha” right now if it wasn’t for him. It’s part of his “law and order” messaging that asserts he’s better equipped than Democratic rival Joe Biden to quell violence. Biden, however, says the violence is happening on the president’s watch. Trump has ascribed the all of the violence to left-wing groups, but not condemned right-wing groups who have also responded to scenes of unrest.

Officials say damage to the property owned by the City of Kenosha is estimated at $2 million.

In addition to federal help, the state is now offering no-interest loans to businesses impacted by the violent protests.

Businesses can apply for up to $20,000 to help with the cost of repairs, temporary spaces, payroll and other needs.

Gov. Evers, a Democrat, and Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian both asked the president to not come to Kenosha,, fearing it would increase tensions in a city that has been relatively calm since last Tuesday.

“We have room for presidents to come to visit, candidates to come to visit,” said Mayor Antaramian. “That’s the process that you have and something that we appreciate you do, but the timing on this, we felt was not good, so we did make a request for him to do it at a different time.”

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin also issued this statement to Action 2 News regarding the President’s visit:

“This President has not provided leadership that united people and he has a bad habit of being divisive, which is not what the Kenosha community and Wisconsin wants or needs. I wand President Trump to do what Jacob Blake’s mother, Julia Jackson, has asked every American to do - examine your heart.”

Kenosha Police say they arrested people from 44 different cities during the violence. More than 100 people who were arrested listed addresses from outside of Kenosha. As in other cities, outside groups from different sides of the political spectrum have descended on the areas of unrest.

Media Release August 30, 2020 The Kenosha Police Department has received several inquiries regarding the law...

Posted by Kenosha Police Department on Sunday, August 30, 2020

Kenosha’s curfew will be extended through Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Wisconsin Department of Justice continues to investigate the Aug. 23 shooting of Jacob Blake, 29. Three Kenosha officers are on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation. The DOJ will turn over their findings to the Kenosha County District Attorney’s Office. The DA will decide on possible charges.

Blake remains hospitalized. Blake’s family and attorney have said that Blake is paralyzed from the waist down.

The DOJ says Kenosha Officer Rusten Sheskey shot Blake seven times in the back. Police responded to the 2800 block of 40th Street when a woman called to report her boyfriend was there, but he was not supposed to be there.

“During the incident, officers attempted to arrest Jacob S. Blake, age 29. After the initial attempt to arrest Mr. Blake, Kenosha Police Officer Rusten Sheskey deployed a taser to attempt to stop Mr. Blake. When that attempt failed, Kenosha Police Officer Vincent Arenas also deployed his taser, however that taser was also not successful in stopping Mr. Blake,” reads a statement from DOJ.

Blake was able to get up and walk away to his vehicle. As he reached down, Officer Sheskey shot Blake seven times in the back.

“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,” reads a statement from DOJ.

DOJ said Blake admitted to having a knife in his possession, however they have not said if he had it on him during the struggle with officers.

“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,” reads a statement from DOJ.

Blake was airlifted to Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee.

The U.S. Department of Justice has confirmed a Federal Civil Rights Investigation into the shooting of Jacob Blake.

“The investigation will be conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, in cooperation with the Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation and other state authorities, and will be overseen by prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division. The federal investigation will run parallel to, and share information with, state authorities to the extent permissible under law,” reads a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

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