Attorney General Bill Barr said Wednesday that Jacob Blake was was committing a felony and ‘armed’ at the time a Kenosha police officer shot him in the back last month.
The AG made the comment in a CNN interview a day after visiting Kenosha, Wisconsin, a city still reeling from the shooting of the black man, who is paralyzed from the waist down. The incident set off angry protests and the city suffered looting and property damage.
Barr drew sharp distinctions between the cases of Blake and George Floyd, who died while being arrested by Minneapolis police with an officer’s knee on his neck.
Attorney General Bill Barr said Jacob Blake was ‘in the midst of committing a felony and he was armed’ when he was shot seven times by a Kenosha police officer
Barr at first said he would not compare the two cases, and noted the Justice Department is investigating.
‘What’s different?’ asked interviewer Wolf Blitzer.
‘Floyd was already subdued, incapacitated in handcuffs and was not armed,’ Blake responded. ‘In the Jacob case he was in the midst of committing a felony and he was armed. So that’s a big difference.’
Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul revealed last week that Blake had a knife on the floorboard of his car. Blake was approaching the car at the time he was shot.
In this September 2019 selfie photo taken in Evanston, Ill., Adria-Joi Watkins poses with her second cousin Jacob Blake. He is recovering from being shot multiple times by Kenosha police on Aug. 23
Protesters march towards the South Los Angeles Sheriffs’ Station on September 1, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. Dijon Kizzee, a 29-year-old Black man, was killed by Los Angeles Sheriff’s deputies in South Los Angeles. Protesters marched to the South Los Angeles Sheriffs’ Station to demonstrate for a second day after Kizzee was killed in an altercation after being stopped by police while riding his bicycle
Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin kneels on the neck of George Floyd, who was pleading that he could not breathe, in Minneapolis on Monday, May 25, 2020. Barr said there were major distinctions between the Floyd case and Jacob Blake
Blake’s family said he was not armed
CNN’s Wolf Blitzer quizzed Barr about the shooting as well as if believes there is ‘systemic racism’ in policing. He said there is not
It isn’t clear the officers responding to the incident knew Blake had a knife, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. Blake told police about the knife after he was shot. They were responding to a call from his girlfriend.
Lawyers for the Blake family Ben Crump, Patrick Salvi, and B’Ivory Lamarr released a statement disputing Barr’s account.
‘Attorney General Barr is misinformed. The police officers were the aggressors from start to finish, based on video and witness accounts,’ they said.
‘There was never any point in time when there was justification for deadly force. In fact, there were innocent bystanders in the line of fire when he shot seven times into Jacob’s back,’ they continued. ‘At all material times, Jacob’s back was to the officers and he never posed an imminent threat. This was never a life or death situation for the officers.’
Local police union lawyer Brendan Matthews said officers were responding to a complaint that Blake was trying to steal the callers keys and car, and that Blake had an open warrant for felony sexual assault and three misdemeanors related to sexual assault, but all are now dropped.
Dramatic video of the shooting shows Sheskey and another officer following Blake with guns drawn when the shooting occurs. It does not show Blake holding a weapon.
Blitzer noted to Barr that Blake’s family has said he was unarmed.
‘I stated what I believe to be the difference,’ Barr said, without going further.
Barr didn’t specify what felony Blake was committing.
Asked about concerns over excessive force, Barr said: ‘We have a process in this country to make that determination. We are investigating it. That should follow due process and be fair to everybody including the police officer.’
‘Violence is not appropriate. Our justice system has to respond to reasoned analysis, not mob violence,’ Barr said.
He also rejected claims of ‘systemic racism’ in U.S. policing.
‘There appears to be a phenomenon in the country where African Americans feel that they’re treated, when they’re stopped by police frequently, as suspects before they’re treated as citizens,’ Barr said. ‘I don’t think that that necessarily reflects some deep-seated racism in police departments or most police officers.’
He said the ‘narrative that the police are on some epidemic of shooting unarmed black men is simply a false narrative. And also the narrative that that’s based on race.’
‘To me the word systemic means that it’s built into the institution,’ Barr said, noting there are built-in protections against racist in police departments.