News, Culture & Society

Uncle of Jacob Blake, whose shooting sparked Kenosha riots and national unrest, speaks out

The uncle of Jacob Blake, the black man whose shooting by Kenosha police last year set off the riots during which Kyle Rittenhouse fatally shot two men and wounded a third, slammed Rittenhouse’s not-guilty verdict on Friday.  

Justin spoke to a large crowd of reporters outside the courthouse immediately following Rittenhouse being cleared of all five charges against him: ‘The mayor, the police chief, the people who are running the army, have blood on their hands today.’

The 52-year-old Chicago resident has been a vocal protester outside the courthouse in Kenosha where Rittenhouse faced trial.  

Referencing the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6, Justin said: ‘This isn’t just an attack on African Americans and I keep saying that.’ 

He continued: ‘This is an attack on our democracy. So you can sit back and say it’s not your people and it’s not us and let the first domino fall but this is a direct attack on our democracy and the republic that we live in.’

Justin Blake, Jacob Blake’s uncle, has been protesting outside the courthouse during Kyle Rittenhouse’s trial in Kenosha, Wisconsin 

Following Rittenhouse's not-guilty verdict, Justin said: We want the nation to know the nation that you live in now isn’t the nation of the United States that we used to live in

Following Rittenhouse’s not-guilty verdict, Justin said: We want the nation to know the nation that you live in now isn’t the nation of the United States that we used to live in

He went on to call out the White House for what he considers their insufficient action to help the African-American community and the families of those impacted by racism and police violence. 

‘President Biden and [Vice President Kamala] Harris sold out our family,’ he said. ‘They said they were going to do things to square up what was going on in the African American community and have not. So juries like this will continue to happen.’

Referencing his invitation to the 2021 inauguration, he said: ‘I didn’t need a ticket to go up there to the White House when he got inaugurated. We need to bring something tangible back to our community.’

Circling back to the Rittenhouse trial, he said: ‘And this was a god-awful site for the whole world to see. The racism, the underbelly of racism, that runs throughout this country in every jurisdiction.’ 

Despite his anger toward the verdict, he called for everyone to ‘as peaceful as they can’ invoking Martin Luther King Jr. ‘There’s a check out there that’s overdue for African Americans.’  

‘We want the nation to know the nation that you live in now isn’t the nation of the United States that we used to live in,’ Justin told CNN.  

Rittenhouse, 18, collapsed in tears and hugged his attorney as the jury in his double murder trial acquitted him of all charges after four days of deliberation and weeks of testimony. The verdict came in at 12:15 p.m. Friday in Kenosha, Wisconsin. 

The Rittenhouse shootings took place during riots on August 25, 2020 – two days after Jacob was shot when officers responded to a ‘family trouble’ around 5:15 p.m. August 23, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. 

Jacob Blake (seen above after he was hospitalized in Milwaukee) has been rehabbing the spinal cord injuries he suffered as a result of the shooting at the hands of Kenosha, Wisconsin police on August 23, 2020

Jacob Blake (seen above after he was hospitalized in Milwaukee) has been rehabbing the spinal cord injuries he suffered as a result of the shooting at the hands of Kenosha, Wisconsin police on August 23, 2020

Blake's shooting sparked protests and widespread rioting in Kenosha. Two days after the shooting, Rittenhouse fatally shot two men and wounded a third. Jurors on Friday found him not guilty of all five charges against him (Pictured: Kyle Rittenhouse closes his eyes and cries as he is found not guilty on all counts at the Kenosha County Courthouse on Friday)

Blake’s shooting sparked protests and widespread rioting in Kenosha. Two days after the shooting, Rittenhouse fatally shot two men and wounded a third. Jurors on Friday found him not guilty of all five charges against him (Pictured: Kyle Rittenhouse closes his eyes and cries as he is found not guilty on all counts at the Kenosha County Courthouse on Friday)

Rittenhouse faced life in prison if convicted on the most serious charge for using an AR-style semi-automatic rifle to kill two men – Anthony Huber and Joseph Rosenbaum – and wound a third, Gaige Grosskreutz. 

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, who faced criticism over his response to the Kenosha protests in 2020, urged calm as the jury deliberated.

He announced last week that 500 members of the National Guard would stand ready for duty in Kenosha if needed.

‘Regardless of the outcome in this case, I urge peace in Kenosha and across our state,’ Evers tweeted.

He added: ‘I ask all those who choose to assemble and exercise their First Amendment rights in every community to do so safely and peacefully.’

Justin had reacted angrily to Evers’ decision to deploy the National Guard, calling the governor a ‘coward’ and a ‘racist.’

He said that Black Lives Matter protesters in Kenosha were ‘positively focused.’’

‘The governor is a coward and a racist to send out National Guards,’ Justin told the New York Post.

‘The only National Guard he’s bringing out is for the people supporting Rittenhouse, while we’ll be celebrating that somebody’s going to jail, they’ll be quite upset.’

Justin has remained a vocal advocate for his nephew and the Black Lives Matter movement  (Pictured: Justin Blake outside the courthouse on Tuesday waving a Pan-African flag)

Justin has remained a vocal advocate for his nephew and the Black Lives Matter movement  (Pictured: Justin Blake outside the courthouse on Tuesday waving a Pan-African flag)

Blake, 30, was paralyzed from the waist down as a result of the shooting in August of last year

Blake, 30, was paralyzed from the waist down as a result of the shooting in August of last year

Blake says he was able to stand up in October of last year, saying his pain felt like his legs were sliding 'through a woodchipper'

Blake says he was able to stand up in October of last year, saying his pain felt like his legs were sliding ‘through a woodchipper’

Jacob is learning to walk again while rehabilitating his injuries in Chicago, according to his uncle.  

‘He has bad days, there’s no doubt, but he’s so grateful to be alive,’ Justin told The New York Times.

Justin said that his nephew has not been following the Rittenhouse trial, which went to the jury Tuesday. Instead, he has focused on his new T-shirt printing business.

‘He needs to be focusing on himself, focusing on his children and his new normal,’ Justin Blake said of his nephew.

A GoFundMe campaign started by Jacob Blake’s mother, Julia Jackson, has raised more than $2.3million.

The money is expected to go toward his medical care. It is not known which facility in Chicago is treating Jacob Blake.

DailyMail.com has sought comment from the Blake family and his attorneys. 

Jacob had a warrant for his arrest at the time of his shooting, and was struck by seven bullets after turning toward a cop while holding a knife. 

The attorney for officer Rusten Sheskey, who shot Jacob, has said Jacob was holding a knife during the encounter and that the officer believed he was trying to kidnap the kids in the backseat of the SUV he was near when police saw him. 

Sheskey was placed on administrative leave but returned to work March 31; he was not charged, according to the Kenosha Police Department. 

A GoFundMe campaign started by Jacob Blake’s mother, Julia Jackson, has raised more than $2.3million

A GoFundMe campaign started by Jacob Blake’s mother, Julia Jackson, has raised more than $2.3million

His shooting touched off protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin in August, after a summer that saw nationwide protests over other officer-involved shootings of black people across the country

His shooting touched off protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin in August, after a summer that saw nationwide protests over other officer-involved shootings of black people across the country

Some of the protests became violent. Above, police stand near a building on fire in Kenosha

Some of the protests became violent. Above, police stand near a building on fire in Kenosha

Blake said of the unrest: 'I didn't agree with what they were doing, but I understood'

Blake said of the unrest: ‘I didn’t agree with what they were doing, but I understood’

In November 2020, Jacob had pleaded guilty to two counts of disorderly conduct and domestic abuse from a previous incident, and was sentenced to two years’ probation. As part of the deal, one count of criminal trespassing and one count of third-degree sexual assault and domestic abuse were dropped, according to NBC News.

A probable cause statement from May 3, 2020, said a complainant met officers crying, in a nightgown saying Jacob had woken her up demanding his things then grabbed her between her legs. She told police her car and debit card were missing after he left.  

The former police youth cadet is white, as were those he shot. Rittenhouse testified he acted in self-defense, while prosecutors argued he provoked the violence.

The case has become a flashpoint in the U.S. debate over guns, racial-justice protests, vigilantism and law and order.

In an interview with CNN this past August, Jacob weighed in on the Rittenhouse case, saying that if he were black, he would have met the same fate as he did.

Jacob said Rittenhouse’s race may have played a part in how differently he was treated by police.

‘That was like a kick right in the you know what,’ he said. 

‘I was angry, I was furious, and I felt like I had every right to be.’

‘For the reasons they said they shot me, they had every reason to shoot him, but they didn’t. Honestly if his skin color was different, and I’m not prejudiced or a racist, he probably would have been labeled a terrorist.’

The jury in the Rittenhouse trial appeared to be overwhelmingly white. Prospective jurors were not asked to identify their race during the selection process, and the court did not provide a racial breakdown. 

At the time of the shooting, Jacob Blake had a warrant for his arrest for charges including sexual assault and domestic violence

At the time of the shooting, Jacob Blake had a warrant for his arrest for charges including sexual assault and domestic violence

Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, killed two people during the unrest in Kenosha after Blake's shooting

Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, killed two people during the unrest in Kenosha after Blake’s shooting

He also injured one other person. He faces two felony charges and is out on $2 million bail

He also injured one other person. He faces two felony charges and is out on $2 million bail

BLM protesters and counter-demonstrators supporting Rittenhouse have been arguing outside the courthouse in recent days.

Rittenhouse supporters said Jacob should not have resisted arrest on August 23 of last year.

‘He shouldn’t have resisted arrest. He should have stopped,’ said one woman who was carrying a sign that read: ‘BLM and Antifa are here 2 Intimidate.’

‘Are you kidding me? His back is turned. He is no threat to the cops,’ a BLM supporter responded.

The large protests that some had anticipated did not materialize during the trial’s testimony phase as people now worry his not-guilty verdict will lead to riots. 

On most days, only a few demonstrators gathered on the courthouse steps, and the high fence that protected the building during last year’s unrest is gone.

During closing arguments Monday, prosecutor Thomas Binger said that Rittenhouse was a ‘wannabe soldier’ who set the deadly chain of events in motion by bringing a rifle to a protest and pointing it at protesters just before he was chased.

But Rittenhouse lawyer Mark Richards countered that Rittenhouse was ambushed by a ‘crazy person’ — Rosenbaum.

Rittenhouse testified that Rosenbaum chased him down and made a grab for his rifle, causing him to fear the weapon was going to be used against him.

His account of Rosenbaum’s behavior was largely corroborated by video and some of the prosecution’s own witnesses.

As for Huber, he was gunned down after he was seen on video hitting Rittenhouse with a skateboard. 

And Grosskreutz admitted he had his own gun pointed at Rittenhouse when he was shot.

In his instructions to the jury, Schroeder said that to accept Rittenhouse’s claim of self-defense, the jurors must find that he believed there was an unlawful threat to him and that the amount of force he used was reasonable and necessary.

Jacob Blake says he started to walk again on first anniversary of police shooting that paralyzed him and says his legs felt like they’d been put through a woodchipper 

The officer who shot Blake, Rusten Sheskey, has returned to active duty and has not been charged at the state level

The officer who shot Blake, Rusten Sheskey, has returned to active duty and has not been charged at the state level

In August, Jacob Blake told CNN he was able to take a few steps during his son’s birthday, a year after a police officer shot him seven times and left him paralyzed from the waist down while his children watched from the backseat of a car.

Blake, 30, says he was ‘geeked’ when he was finally able to stand in October of last year, and he even took a few steps on August 23, exactly one year after Kenosha, Wisconsin police officer Rusten Sheskey shot him seven times in his side on August 23, 2020.

‘I forgot how tall I was,’ he said in an interview with CNN.

His healing process has been slow, Blake shared,  as he detailed the physical and emotional pain he’s felt in the past year as he underwent months of physical rehabilitation and succumbed to bouts of depression.

‘At one point it felt like someone was sliding my legs through a woodchipper,’ he said. ‘It’s been progress every two weeks … it made it easier for me to be like I’m healing.’ 

‘I’m still going through a lot of pain,’ he added. ‘Last week I was up for three days straight, slept for a whole day. 

‘When I fall into depression, which I have, it makes my body hurt. I don’t have the physical strength to be upset.’

He also reportedly suffered an anxiety attack during the Fourth of July weekend, going so far as calling 911 as fireworks blasted outside while he was with family in the Chicago area, which was going through a particularly turbulent period of gun violence.

‘Before we even got to the 4th of July, the weekend was bloody already. I was watching all of my people dying.

‘I’m hearing these booms [fireworks] and it’s not scaring me because I got shot, it’s scaring me because all of those people have gotten shot so every time a boom went off, I’m kind of imagining people dying.’

Blake also described feeling dissociative as he watched protesters chant his name on TV as he was still handcuffed to a bed.

He was shot after officers arrived at his address following reports of ‘family trouble,’ according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Blake had a warrant for his arrest at the time of his shooting, and was struck by seven bullets after turning towards a cop while holding a knife. 

Jacob Blake appeared virtually for a court hearing while treated in a Milwaukee hospital on September 4, 2020

Jacob Blake appeared virtually for a court hearing while treated in a Milwaukee hospital on September 4, 2020

‘I can’t really explain the feeling … it was out of body. I felt like I was floating for a while, watching everything happen.

‘It blew my mind that they were that mad about it, that people care about it, that they care about me.’

In November 2020, Blake was sentenced to two years’ probation after pleading guilty to two counts of disorderly conduct and domestic abuse from a previous incident.

As part of the plea deal, one count of criminal trespassing and one count of third-degree sexual assault and domestic abuse were dropped, according to NBC News. 

According to a probably cause statement from May 3, 2020, a complainant had met with officers crying, visibly shaken and dressed only in a nightgown.

She told police Blake woke her up at about 6am after she had come back from a party. 

Blake was standing over her saying, ‘I want my sh*t.’ As the victim laid on her back, Blake, ‘suddenly and without warning, reached his hand between her legs’ and sexually assaulted her, it is claimed.

She told the police she realized her car and debit card were missing after he left. 

She also said that Blake was unemployed and that, over the past eight years, he had physically assaulted her twice a year ‘when he drinks heavily.’

Sheskey, the officer who shot Blake, was placed on administrative leave after the incident but returned to work on March 31 after the shooting was investigated ‘by an outside agency,’ according to the Kenosha Police Department.

He returned to active duty in April of this year, according to CNN.

The officer was not charged at the state level, but the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Wisconsin is conducting a federal civil rights investigation into the shooting with help from the FBI and the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. 

Sheskey’s attorney has said that Blake was holding a knife during the encounter and that the officer believed he was trying to kidnap the kids in the backseat of the SUV when he shot him. 

The officer heard a woman say, ‘He’s got my kid. He’s got my keys,’ the attorney told CNN last year.

Blake has decried the violence that followed his shooting, which left vehicles charred and reduced the Kenosha Department of Corrections building to rubble. 

The unrest came months after the police shootings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd had already led to massive protests, some of which turned violent and went on for months.

‘I didn’t agree with what they were doing, but I understood,’ he said.       

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk