As we continue to live through this never-ending Groundhog’s Day, rioting and looting broke out in yet another city this weekend. “Protesters” in Kenosha, Wisconsin burned, pillaged, destroyed, and stole, all in the name of justice, of course. The most disturbing incident was the violent assault of a police officer, who was hit directly in the head with a brick during the melee.
The excuse being offered for this latest round of chaos is the police shooting of a man named Jacob Blake on Sunday. At this point, not much is known about the circumstances surrounding the shooting, but a video shot from a house across the street has gone viral and prompted the widespread rioting.
Media reports indicate that police arrived on the scene in response to a domestic disturbance. They tried to arrest Blake, who allegedly resisted even after a taser was used on him. Blake then walked around his car with multiple officers pointing their weapons at him. As he opened his door and reached inside, he was shot seven times. He’s currently alive, though in critical condition.
Neighbors claim that Blake was trying to break up a fight between two women before the cops showed up. That hasn’t been confirmed, but according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, there was a warrant out for Blake’s arrest, charging him with multiple crimes, including sexual assault. “Online court records indicate Kenosha County prosecutors charged Blake on July 6 with sexual assault, trespassing and disorderly conduct in connection with domestic abuse,” the outlet reports. “An arrest warrant was issued the following day.”
Were cops arresting him because of his involvement in the disturbance or because of the warrants, or both? We haven’t been told. Apparently, Blake has had other violent run-ins with police, including an incident in 2015 when he had to be subdued by a K9 unit after pulling a gun at a bar. It’s not clear whether police on the scene on Sunday knew about this violent history, either.
What we are left with, for now, is a man who chose not to comply with lawful orders and instead opened his car door and leaned inside even as police guns were trained at him at point-blank range. As always, the dearth of evidence and context has not stopped the media, protesters, and politicians from leaping to drastic and firm conclusions.
The governor of Wisconsin, Tony Evers, has already tied the case to racism and has essentially accused the officers of carrying out a racist hit on an innocent man. Evers tweeted, in part: “Tonight, Jacob Blake was shot in the back multiple times, in broad daylight, in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Kathy and I join his family, friends, and neighbors in hoping earnestly that he will not succumb to his injuries. While we do not have all of the details yet, what we know for certain is that 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 our country…I have said all along that although we must offer our empathy, equally important is our action. In the coming days, we will demand just that of elected officials in our state who have failed to recognize the racism in our state and our country for far too long.”
Needless to say, a decent human being who is interested in providing leadership rather than intentionally fanning the flames of anarchy would never use terms like “mercilessly” and “racism” to describe an officer-involved shooting before he has the details, by his own admission. But Tony Evers is not a decent human being or a leader.
And speaking of indecent human beings, the Biden-Harris campaign released a statement declaring that the shooting was “excessive force,” the officers must be “held accountable,” and the shots fired at Blake “pierce the soul of our nation.” Either Joe Biden is privy to evidence that no one else has seen, or he is throwing potentially innocent men to the wolves and encouraging more baseless carnage for political reasons. I think I know which option applies.
So, putting politics and narrative aside, what should we think about this situation? Well, the first thing to keep in mind is that we’ve only heard one side of the story and there is quite a lot we haven’t been told.
Here’s a rather significant detail that is being treated as somehow irrelevant: Did Blake have a gun in his car? Media is reporting that he was “unarmed” but they don’t appear to have any firm basis for that characterization. Blake went back to his car for some reason or another. Was it to retrieve a firearm? He has a history of pulling guns. Did he try it again here? If he did, case closed. No honest person could possibly claim that a police shooting is unjustified when the suspect is reaching for a gun to use against the officers.
But what if there was no gun? Then we are back to the original question. Why was Blake going to his car and reaching inside? Could there be any plausible or even imaginable innocent reason to resist arrest, walk to your car as police point their guns at you and tell you to stop, and then open your door and reach inside? Is there a version of this story where Blake’s actions are justified or innocuous? Would the police on the scene have had good reason to suspect that Blake was reaching into this vehicle to grab a weapon? Even if they could imagine an innocent reason, are they expected to assume that his actions are innocent and stake their own lives on the gamble?
Anyone who doesn’t understand why police would want to prevent you from reaching into your car during an arrest need only watch this dashcam video from a highway stop in Pennsylvania for clarification on the matter: The shooter, Daniel Clary, resisted arrest, even through zaps from a taser, and eventually made it back to his car, where he drew his gun and nearly killed two cops. Indeed, the Clary arrest and the Blake arrest are eerily similar in some respects. Except that in one case it is the cops getting shot, and in the other, it’s the suspect.
One excuse I’ve heard offered for Blake is that he was going back to his car because he wanted to get inside and drive away. But driving away while there’s a warrant for your arrest and cops are attempting to detain you is not a legal option, so if that was his intent, it would not be innocent. Also, the family’s lawyer, Benjamin Crump — who manages to involve himself in every high profile police shooting in the country — says that Blake’s kids were in the car. This is supposed to make Blake more sympathetic, but why was Blake bringing the officers back to his car where his kids were sitting? He knew they had their guns out.
It’s possible that more details could emerge that change the equation. If so, then I will change my opinion to comport with the facts. The protesters, on the other hand, form their opinions completely separate from the facts, and no additional evidence or context can sway them from the conclusion they drew within five seconds of being made aware of the case. That is why our society is falling apart at the seams. Not because of police shootings or racism or anything like that. But because a certain very large segment of the population simply doesn’t care about the truth.