Yesterday the legal authorities in Wisconsin who are charged by law, they said, with conducting an “independent investigation” of the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha spent a lot of time in front of the cameras pleading for time to conduct what they repeatedly said was an “independent’ investigation, that is, independent of the police department being investigated. We heard all the usual platitudes about the complexity of the situation, not jumping to conclusions, these things take time, be patient, etc. No surprises.
Then, today, we read that, lo and behold, those same authorities disclose a few new “facts” already discovered that, presumably, they didn’t know the day before: “Wisconsin authorities say there was knife in Jacob Blake’s vehicle.’ https://bit.ly/3gtAlLm
The “press release,” issued by the Wisconsin Department of Justice, was reproduced in a report from WKOW, an ABC-affiliate station in Kenosha [https://bit.ly/31xWpjF], and in relevant part reads as follows with my notes in brackets :
Kenosha Police Department officers were dispatched to a residence in the 2800 block of 40th Street after a female caller reported that her boyfriend was present and was not supposed to be on the premises.
During the incident, officers attempted to arrest Jacob S. Blake, age29. [Why? “Girlfriend said Blake wasn’t supposed to be there. Is that why he was arrested?] Law enforcement deployed a taser to attempt to stop Mr. Blake, however the taser was not successful in stopping Mr. Blake. [Stopping him from doing what? Was he resisting arrest? Audio evidence from police radios indicate police were on site for only 3 minutes from start to shooting Blake] Mr. Blake walked around his vehicle [good; they got this right; Blake did not run as some have claimed]. 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. [When did this discovery occur?]
I have read this release several times. My first, and continuing, thought was: why, after all the “be patient; these things take time, etc.” did the DOJ decide to release these tidbits of initial investigative findings which, standing alone, imply — but do not state – that Blake was indeed being arrested for a legitimate reason, resisted arrest after admitting to having a deadly weapon in his car and was shot while attempting to reach the weapon with which to attack the two officers who already had pistols trained on him?
Is all that plausibly possible? Certainly. But why is the Wisconsin DOJ now so seemingly anxious to start slanting the public mind against Mr. Blake? What happened to “be patient, let’s collect all the evidence and then we’ll impartially decide whether a crime was committed and, if so, by whom?
These events suggest an effort by the DOJ to prime the public to accept a defense the police have yet to make but which may be inevitable. Is this the model for how this investigation will be conducted – dribbling pieces of seemingly incriminating evidence (only regarding Mr. Blake) to the public to prepare them for the [inevitable?] decision to bring no charges against the police because – what – they “reasonably feared for their safety?
I don’t want to be guilty of prejudging anything in this volatile situation even as I am demanding impartiality by the investigators. As I said when I first wrote about this case, I wasn’t there and have only seen the videos which cloak as much as they reveal. But I can’t help but be reminded of the all-too-familiar ring of “be patient while we game this situation.”
It strikes me that even if one imagines the worst case — Blake was out of control emotionally and was reaching for a knife with which to attack the police and that the police had tased him to no effect, ordered him to stop, he didn’t and instead reached for a knife and the police believed he was trying to reach the weapon he had confessed to having during the less-than-three minute interaction before the shooting and everything was moving fast – still, why could the police have not backed away? They had weapons drawn and pointed. There were two of them. If they had backed up several feet, they would have had a better view of Blake and could still have shot him if he turned with a weapon, maybe even a gun, in his hand.
Easy enough to speculate. Things were moving fast indeed. Split-second decisions had to be made. But that’s part of the problem. Could the police not have avoided a situation in which split-second decisions had to be made and in which the risk of mistake, possibly fatal mistake, would arise? If the police thought Blake was going to the car to retrieve a weapon, why did they not shoot him in the legs, say, before he reached and opened the car door? Why did the shooting officer grab Blake’s tee shirt while pumping seven rounds into his back?
Many questions. Few answers because it’s early in the investigation. Why then, I ask again, is the Wisconsin DOJ moving so quickly to release only incriminating evidence against Mr. Blake?