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.
Things have very much taken a turn in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Multiple locations now burning. pic.twitter.com/OR53avc6DW
— Omar Jimenez (@OmarJimenez) August 25, 2020
Chants may be about cops, but baseball bats found their way to cars offending the rioters by being parked.
— Brendan Gutenschwager (@BGOnTheScene) August 25, 2020
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.