Jacob Blake unshackled, court delayed for accused Kenosha shooter

Jacob Blake, who was paralysed from the waist down after police shot him, has been released from handcuffs in hospital.

Jacob Blake Sr
Jacob Blake Sr, father of Jacob Blake, speaks during the March on Washington at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC [Jacquelyn Martin-Pool/Getty Images/AFP]

An attorney representing Jacob Blake, the Black man who was left paralysed after police in Kenosha, Wisconsin shot him in the back, has said that handcuffs keeping Blake shackled to his hospital bed have been been removed.

Police earlier said Blake was in custody over a previous arrest warrant.

The handcuffs were removed on Friday after his lawyer agreed to a court hearing on the matter and an outstanding warrant for Blake was vacated, his attorney, Pat Cafferty, told Reuters news agency. The officers who were guarding his room have also left, Cafferty said.

Attorneys representing Blake did not immediately respond to Al Jazeera’s request for comment.

The arrest warrant was for three domestic abuse-related charges, including one for trespassing and one for third-degree sexual assault.

Blake was paralysed after being shot seven times by police on Sunday in an incident that triggered days of protests in Kenosha against police brutality and racial injustice.

Earlier on Friday, a judge agreed to delay for a month a decision on whether a 17-year-old from Illinois should be returned to Wisconsin to face charges accusing him of fatally shooting two protesters and wounding a third during a night of unrest following the police shooting of Blake.

The Illinois judge postponed Kyle Rittenhouse’s extradition hearing to September 25 during a brief hearing that was streamed online. Rittenhouse faces five felony charges, including first-degree intentional homicide and first-degree reckless homicide and a misdemeanour charge for possession of a dangerous weapon by a minor.

Rittenhouse did not appear in the livestreamed hearing, where his lawyer Jennifer Snyder, an assistant public defender in Lake County, Illinois, asked for the delay. The judge said Rittenhouse had been allowed to speak by phone with his mother and was in the process of hiring a lawyer.

Rittenhouse, a white teen who was armed with a semi-automatic rifle as he walked Kenosha’s streets with other armed civilians during this week’s protests, would face a mandatory life sentence if convicted of first-degree intentional homicide.

Under Wisconsin law, anyone 17 or older is treated as an adult in the criminal justice system.

He was taken into custody on Wednesday in Antioch, Illinois, the city about 24 kilometres (15 miles) from Kenosha where he lives.

The shootings late on Tuesday were largely caught on cellphone video and posted online. The shooting by police of Blake, a 29-year-old  father of six, was also caught on cellphone video.

Demonstrators take part in a protest following the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, in Kenosha, Wisconsin [Stephen Maturen/Reuters]

That shooting made Kenosha the latest focal point in the fight against racial injustice that has gripped the country since the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.

Three nights later, Rittenhouse was armed and on the streets of Kenosha, saying that he was protecting businesses from protesters, according to widely circulated cellphone footage.

Prosecutors used that footage to piece together the events. 

The criminal complaint said that Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, of Kenosha, followed Rittenhouse into a used-car lot, where he appeared to throw a plastic bag at the gunman which did not hit Rittenhouse. Rosenbaum “continued to move across the parking lot”, a loud bang is heard on the video, then Rosembaum “appears to continue to approach the defendant” as he gets in “near proximity” “four more loud bangs are heard'” on the video. 

The medical examiner found that Rosenbaum was shot in the groin and back – which fractured his pelvis and perforated his right lung and liver – and his left hand.

He also suffered a superficial wound to his left thigh and a graze wound to his forehead.

As he is on the ground, Rittenhouse “approaches Rosenbaum” then “appears to get on his cellphone and place a call”. Running away from the scene he can be heard saying, “I just killed somebody.”

Rittenhouse then ran down the street and was chased by several people shouting that he just shot someone before he tripped and fell, according to the complaint and video footage. Anthony Huber, 26, of Silver Lake, was shot in the chest after apparently trying to wrest the gun from Rittenhouse, the complaint said.

Gaige Grosskreutz, 26, who appeared to be holding a gun, was then shot in the left arm after approaching Rittenhouse, the complaint said.

Rittenhouse’s lawyer, Lin Wood, said on Thursday that the teenager was acting in self-defence.

“From my standpoint, it’s important that the message be clear to other Americans who are attacked that there will be legal resources available in the event false charges are brought against them,” he said. “Americans should never be deterred from exercising their right of self-defence.”

Police criticism

Kenosha police faced questions about their interactions with the gunman on Tuesday night. According to witness accounts and video footage, police apparently let the gunman walk past them and leave the scene with a rifle over his shoulder and his hands in the air, as members of the crowd yelled for him to be arrested because he had shot people.

Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth said the gunman likely slipped away because the scene was chaotic, with lots of radio traffic and people screaming, chanting and running – conditions he said can cause “tunnel vision” among law officers.

Video taken before the shooting shows police tossing bottled water from an armoured vehicle and thanking civilians armed with long guns walking the streets. One of them appears to be Rittenhouse.

Jacob Blake Sr, who earlier on CNN lamented how his son’s treatment contrasted with how officers treated Rittenhouse on Tuesday night, spoke forcefully on Friday at civil rights march in Washington, DC, about the need to “hold court” on systemic racism shown by the differing police treatment of his son and Rittenhouse.

“We are going to have court right now,” Blake Sr said at the Washington march. “Guilty. Guilty. Guilty.”

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Kenosha Police Chief Daniel Miskinis appeared to suggest the killings would not have happened if people upheld the curfew at a Wednesday news conference.  

“Everybody involved was out after the curfew,” Miskinis said. “I’m not gonna make a great deal of it but the point is – the curfew’s in place to protect. Had persons not been out involved in violation of that, perhaps the situation that unfolded would not have happened.”

The American Civil Liberties Union has called for the resignation of Beth and Miskinis.  

“The ACLU strongly condemns Sheriff Beth and Police Chief Miskinis’ response to both the attempted murder of Jacob Blake and the protests demanding justice for him. Their actions uphold and defend white supremacy, while demonizing people who were murdered for exercising their first amendment rights and speaking out against police violence”, wrote Chris Ott, executive director of the ACLU-Wisconsin. “The only way to rectify these actions is for both Sheriff Beth and Police Chief Daniel Miskinis to immediately tender their resignations.”

If the two law enforcement leaders do not tender their resignations, the “ACLU is calling for Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian to demand the police chief’s removal by the Kenosha Police and Fire Commission, and the sheriff’s removal”, the letter concluded.  

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies