A Black man shot multiple times, apparently in the back, by police in Wisconsin is paralysed from the waist down and has “eight holes” in his body, the father of victim Jacob Blake said.
A video of the shooting in broad daylight on Sunday in Kenosha, captured on mobile phone camera that quickly spread on social media, ignited new protests over racial injustice in several cities.
It comes three months after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police set off demonstrations around the United States and touched off a wider reckoning on race.
Blake’s father, also named Jacob Blake, told the Chicago Sun-Times in a story published on Tuesday that he did not know if his 29-year-old son’s paralysis would be permanent. The older man was travelling from North Carolina to be with his son, who is being treated in a Milwaukee hospital.
“I want to put my hand on my son’s cheek and kiss him on his forehead, and then I’ll be OK,” the father told the newspaper. “I’ll kiss him with my mask. The first thing I want to do is touch my son.”
Blake’s father said he learned on Sunday night that officers had shot his son eight times and shortly thereafter he watched the video, which appears to show his son being shot in the back.
Ben Crump, a civil rights lawyer representing the family, said three of Blake’s sons – aged three, five and eight – were in the car at the time of the shooting. Crump scheduled a Tuesday afternoon news conference in Kenosha with Blake’s family members to address the shooting.
The father has not returned multiple messages left by The Associated Press news agency.
Confirmed: Jacob Blake currently paralyzed from the waist down. Praying it's not permanent. #JusticeForJacobBlake
— Ben Crump (@AttorneyCrump) August 25, 2020
He is slated to speak at a March on Washington commemoration on Friday organised by the Reverend Al Sharpton.
His father and the victim’s grandfather, Jacob Blake Sr, was a prominent minister and civil rights leader in the Chicago area who helped organise a march and spoke in support of comprehensive housing law in Evanston, Illinois, days after the 1968 slaying of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.
The officers were placed on administrative leave, which is standard practice in such cases. Authorities released no details about them and did not immediately respond to requests for their service records.
Since the shooting, anger has spilled into the streets of Kenosha and other cities, including Los Angeles, Wisconsin’s capital of Madison and in Minneapolis, the epicentre of the Black Lives Matter movement this summer following Floyd’s death.
Hundreds of protesters defied an 8pm (00:00GMT) curfew on Monday night, massing in downtown Kenosha. Some set fire to buildings, cars and dumpsters, threw bottles and shot fireworks and then clashed with officers in riot gear, including 125 members of the Wisconsin National Guard, who deployed tear gas as they guarded the courthouse.
A city block was cordoned off on Tuesday, so officials could survey the aftermath. Several storefronts were badly damaged. Smoke filled the air and visibility was low as firefighters used water cannon on still smouldering buildings.
Earlier on Monday, when Kenosha Mayor John Antarmian moved a news conference from a park to inside the public safety building, a crowd rushed to the building and a door was snapped off its hinges before police in riot gear pepper-sprayed the crowd.
US Senator Ron Johnson and Representative Bryan Steil, both Republicans, called on Democratic Governor Tony Evers seeking more action to quell the unrest. Steil said he would request federal assistance if necessary.
A Wisconsin state legislator said Evers and Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes, who is Black, encouraged violence with their comments after the shooting.
“They did not call for peace. They did not encourage calm,” Republican state Senator Howard Marklein said. “They did encourage people to jump to conclusions and take negative action.”
Evers’s spokeswoman did not immediately respond to the AP’s request for comment.
Evers was quick to condemn the shooting in Kenosha and on Monday called on the Republican-controlled legislature to take up a package of police reform bills in a special session next week.
But Republicans showed no interest in doing that.
In Madison, about 500 protesters marched to the state Capitol on Monday night, and some broke windows, stole from stores and sprayed graffiti along the way. Police used tear gas and pepper spray on the crowds and six people were arrested, according to Madison police.
In Minneapolis, 11 people were arrested after breaking windows at the county jail on Monday night. One police officer suffered a broken hand in an altercation with demonstrators, the sheriff’s department said.
Police in Kenosha, a city of about 100,000 in between Milwaukee and Chicago, said they were responding to a call about a domestic dispute when they encountered Blake on Sunday.
The man who said he made the mobile phone video, 22-year-old Raysean White, said he saw Blake scuffling with three officers and heard them yell, “Drop the knife! Drop the knife!” before the gunfire erupted. He said he did not see a knife in Blake’s hands.
In the footage, Blake walks from the sidewalk around the front of his four-wheel drive 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 car, an officer grabs his shirt from behind and opens fire while Blake has his back turned. Seven shots can be heard, though it is not clear how many struck Blake or how many officers fired.
Police did not say whether Blake was armed or why police opened fire, they released no details on the domestic dispute, and they did not immediately disclose the race of the three officers at the scene.
The Wisconsin Department of Justice is leading the investigation into the shooting, which is expected to take several weeks.