Kenosha Burning

As of July 29, 2020, police have shot to death 111 black people and 215 white people. Each death has its own story, some of which are about police abuse. Jacob Blake didn’t die, and so he isn’t one of these numbers, and his shooting isn’t a simple case of a cop execution.

Police were called because of a “domestic dispute,” which turned out to be a “verbal altercation” between two women. Blake apparently tried to break it up. Police arrived and details are sparse after that. It would seem that Blake was the good guy here, but whether the cops knew that, or even knew who Blake was, is unclear. It’s like they did what they normally do, tried to put the situation on hold until they could figure it out.

Good guys tend not to respond well to such control. If they didn’t do anything wrong, it doesn’t make sense to a good guy that he should be treated like the bad dude. It’s not that Blake was unfamiliar with how the bad dudes were treated, but this time he was the good guy.

Blake was ordered to get on the ground and refused to comply. Two cops had their guns drawn and pointed at Blake, so the seriousness of their commands was clear. Yet he didn’t comply. Instead, he kept walking. Was it because he was the good guy this time?  Was he more concerned for his three kids in the back seat of his van than he was about being shot? Was he daring them to do something because complying with police commands has become optional?

Former Dem presidential candidate and HUD secretary Julián Castro took to social media to ask “We’re [sic] no other non-lethal methods considered”? In retrospect, there were ways this could have been avoided, whether by taking Blake down physically or with less-lethal means before he arrived at the driver side door of his van. In retrospect, the cops probably wish they had done so. But they didn’t. Whether there was a reason or it just wasn’t their best choice, the legal propriety of what happened afterward isn’t based on whether other choices along the way would have been wiser, but whether, at the moment the trigger was pulled,  it complied with the “Reasonably Scared Cop Rule.”

Despite the screaming cops, the guns pointed, Blake opened the door to his car. The cop standing right behind him wouldn’t know why, what was inside the car, whether this was a guy checking on his kids, a good guy trying to leave or a man with a gun.

There being no suggestion that the cops knew Blake’s identity or anything about his past, it can’t be assumed that any prior criminal history informed them to beware. But ignorance often leads to the worst assumptions. Was the cop to wait until Blake spun around and he saw the “glint of steel” or the muzzle flash? What the cop already knew was that Blake refused to comply with commands. He may have already physically resisted, even been tased, but that’s unclear.

From the perspective of a police officer, as the law requires the shooting be considered under Graham v. Connor, at that instant in time, was the cop’s fear reasonable such that he was justified in firing seven rounds into Blake?

The question isn’t an easy one, and one that could well be debated. The cop had no basis to believe that Blake was reaching for a gun, but simply assumed the worst. Was it because Blake was a black man? Would he have assumed the same thing if Blake was a nice white guy in a suit? Maybe he would, as sometimes nice white guys get shot too, but these remain questions in need of answers.

But nobody considered these questions. Nobody waited for answers, least of all Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers.

While we do not have all the details yet, what we know for certain is he is not the first Black man or person to have been shot or injured or mercilessly killed at the hands of individuals in law enforcement in our state or in our country.

We stand with all those who have and continue to demand justice, equality and accountability for Black lives in our country — lives like those of George Floyd, of Breonna Taylor, Tony Robinson, Denise Hamilton, Earnest Lacy, and Sylville Smith. And we stand against excessive use of force and immediate escalation when engaging with Black Wisconsinites.

Just as ignorance can lead a cop to assume the worst, it can do the same to a governor. And the fire in Kenosha was lit.

Chants may be about cops, but baseball bats found their way to cars offending the rioters by being parked.

The rhetoric on the streets and social media seems to suggest that people are filled with “righteous fury” about how cops are constantly slaughtering black men in the streets. Every shooting is a tragedy in one way or another, but with millions of interactions between cops and non-cops daily, they are so exceptionally rare as to give rise to torching furniture stores and smashing random people’s cars when it happens.

To the extent the killing is unjustified, cops are finally being held to account for their actions, a failing for far too long when prosecutors wouldn’t prosecute and juries wouldn’t convict. But the first step in the outrage cycle is to determine whether this was a case that warranted outrage, or warranted some cautious deliberation and more information, at a minimum, before turning to the ether to announce that cops did it again, they shot another black man.

And to no one’s surprise, now Kenosha is burning.

33 thoughts on “Kenosha Burning

  1. Chris Van Wagner

    Just a point of information, additional video is surfacing showing a physical altercation between Blake and the cops at the passenger side rear of his van, just seconds before he jumped up and quickly circled the van heading for the driver door. One more fact that gets entered into your reasonably scared cop calculator. Which underscores your point about the governor’s rush to judge the actions here before any investigation.

    1. SHG Post author

      I saw that video yesterday, and it was of almost no use to me. Here it is, for what it’s worth.

  2. Hunting Guy

    Progressives may want to remember this quote.

    Pat Buchanan.

    “ The Republican Party of Richard Nixon was called to power in 1968 to bring an honorable end to the war in Vietnam and restore law and order to campuses and cities convulsed by crime, riots and racial violence. Nixon appeared to have succeeded and was rewarded with a 49-state landslide.“

    1. SHG Post author

      At the time, I never anticipated a president less honorable than Tricky Dick. I was so young and naive.

      1. Richard Parker

        Nixon had some good points. He just wasn’t pretty, socially awkward, and went to Working Man’s College rather than an Ivy League.

        1. Will J. Richardson

          I always appreciate the reminder.

          Harshaw: “Democracy’s greatest fault is that its leaders are likely to reflect the faults and virtues of their constituents—a depressingly low level, but what else can you expect? So take a look at Douglas and ponder that, in his ignorance, stupidity, and self-seeking, he much resembles his fellow Americans, including you and me . . . and that in fact he is a notch or two above the average. Then take a look at the man who will replace him if his government topples.”

          Caxton: “There’s precious little choice.”

          Harshaw: “There’s always a choice! This one is a choice between ‘bad’ and ‘worse’— which is a difference much more poignant than that between ‘good’ and ‘better.’”

          Heinlein, R.A., [Dialogue between Jubal Harshaw and Ben Caxton, [The Original Uncut] Stranger in a Strange Land (1991)

      2. B. McLeod

        At one time, I thought we would never have a smarmier one than Bubba, or a stupider one than W. Live and learn, I suppose.

  3. B. McLeod

    Evers is trying to be all things to all people at this point, but is going to have to fish or cut bait before all is said and done. Facts are still very murky. Some reports say officers had deployed a taser, but it wasn’t effective. This morning, some news stations were reporting six, rather than seven, shots.

    It did rather look like Jacob Blake thought all the protests meant he could safely ignore police directions. He found out the world has not changed so much.

    As for the genius rioters, no pause to consider that all the riots up to this point didn’t prevent this shooting. The obvious answer, therefore? MOAR rioting! At the end of the first round, they had managed to destroy three Public Works trucks, and had damaged a church, a charter school, the evil public library and the register of deeds office, plus the Dinosaur Discovery Museum. (The critters in there may never walk again). All these facilities being, of course, critical to police operations and integrally involved in the shooting. Hooray! Maybe next, they can take out a preschool, a hospice, or the local veterinarian.

    1. SHG Post author

      There was another video of protesters, some armed with rifles, stopping an armored police vehicle. Two people stood in front of it to prevent it from proceeding, daring it to run them down. To their credit, the cops deployed tear gas and no one was harmed, but what would have happened if they were responding to active shooting?

      1. B. McLeod

        In the second round of victorious rioting, the rioters burned down a Mexican restaurant (racist bastards), a mattress store, another church, and a cellphone shop. They did also manage to beat up a bunch of cars and set fire to a parole office. Clearly, they are well on their way to winning this thing.

        1. DaveL

          So if you’re on parole and need to report to your PO regularly, in person, what happens when the local parole office burns down? I take it they’ll considerately let you report to another office three bus rides across town?

      2. David Meyer-Lindenberg

        This retroactively justifies all those small-town PDs picking up armored cars. Awesome! That, or this is all some 8D police-accountability chess strat I’m too dumb to understand.

      3. PML

        They should have just used the gun ports, shot the punk and that would have ended it right there.

        A lot of real Americans wouldn’t have batted an eye if they had.

        1. delurking

          They don’t do that to white guys with rifles. See, when it is a white guy with a rifle, with one hand on the stock grip and the other on the forward grip, it suffices for an officer to say “don’t raise it” for the officers to feel safe enough not to shoot him. We have seen similar scenes of police and white guys with rifles at multiple protests over the last year.

          When it is a dark-skinned guy with no gun visible, they may just shoot him immediately because he might be able to retrieve a hidden gun, point it, and fire too quickly for them to react. We have seen similar scenes of police and dark-skinned guys with no guns over the last few years.

          1. SHG Post author

            Be careful about conflating problems, as it doesn’t prove anything more than your bias. There is one problem with the assumption by police that black men are more prone to violence. There is a very different problem between open and apparent weapons and unknown and potentially concealed weapons.

            1. delurking

              My bias is arrived at honestly. I was aware of that group’s two marches in Georgia, and I also am aware of the circumstances in which Daniel Shaver was killed. A small number of counterexamples does not a trend disprove.

              I do push back against the idea that potentially-concealed weapons are a bigger threat to police than openly-carried weapons, and that it is thus appropriate to shoot a person when no weapon is visible in circumstances where you wouldn’t shoot someone openly carrying. The odds that the civilian is unarmed cannot be ignored in the evaluation.

          2. Sgt. Schultz

            Your “analysis” is either informed by the specific facts as they occurred and to the extent known or you’re just pissing in the wind. You got caught pissing in the wind and you got all wet.

  4. Richard Parker

    “It would seem that Blake was the good guy here . . .”

    The problem is that there is no way to know what is true anymore. (Maybe there never was.) Everybody lies with abandon and sheds crocodile tears by the gallon.

  5. Hunting Guy

    6/7 shots into the chest area.

    He’s still alive?

    Whatever company that manufactures that ammo just took a major hit on their stock.

    If all the shots didn’t hit him, at that distance, the police force needs a lot more range time.

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