Teenager charged with killing two in Kenosha to fight extradition, lawyer says

By Nathan Layne

(Reuters) – Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenager charged with killing two protesters and injuring another during demonstrations about race and justice in Kenosha, Wisconsin, will fight his requested extradition from Illinois, his lawyer told a court hearing on Friday.

Rittenhouse, 17, has been charged by Kenosha County’s district attorney with six crimes for shooting three people who tried to subdue or disarm him during protests on Aug. 25, killing 36-year-old Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber, 26.

Rittenhouse participated in the hearing at the Lake County Circuit Court in Illinois via video link from the detention facility where he is being held. He was wearing a black sweatshirt and a gray mask covered his face.

“Good morning, your honor,” he addressed the judge in his only remarks in the hearing, which lasted just a few minutes.

John Pierce, one of Rittenhouse’s lawyers, said he planned to fight the request by Kenosha prosecutors that he be transferred to Wisconsin to face the charges.

“We intend to challenge extradition by writ of habeas corpus,” Pierce said. “And so we would ask that the procedures be put in place whereby extradition documents are in fact sent from Wisconsin so we can review them.”

The teenager had traveled to Kenosha on Aug. 25 from his home in nearby Antioch, Illinois, in a self-appointed role to protect the streets of Kenosha where the police shooting of Jacob Blake had sparked unrest during protests against police brutality and racism.

Rittenhouse’s legal team have said that he feared for his life when he fired his semi-automatic rifle and was acting in self-defense. Cellphone videos from the night show chaotic scenes, including one where Rittenhouse is chased and falls down before his encounter with Huber and another man, Gaige Grosskreutz.

Huber appeared to hit Rittenhouse in the shoulder with a skateboard and tried to grab his rifle before being shot, according to the criminal complaint. Rittenhouse then pointed the rifle at Grosskreutz, who had a hand gun. Grosskreutz was shot but survived.

Rittenhouse’s lawyers have also sought to portray the case as a referendum on the right to bear arms following a summer of sometimes violent protests in major U.S. cities.

“A 17-year-old American citizen is being sacrificed by politicians, but it’s not Kyle Rittenhouse they are after,” the narrator says in a video released this week by a group tied to his legal team. “Their end game is to strip away the constitutional right of all citizens to defend our communities.”

(Reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; Editing by Leslie Adler and Alistair Bell)

Judge hears arguments in George Floyd case, as protesters chant ‘Black Lives Matter’ outside

By Nick Pfosi

(Reuters) – All four former Minneapolis police officers charged in the death of George Floyd appeared in court on Friday, with the prosecution arguing their trials should be combined and the judge weighing a request to move the cases outside the city.

Derek Chauvin, who faces the most serious accusations, was wearing a gray suit and dark shirt and tie for his first in-person court appearance since he was charged with murder for kneeling on Floyd’s neck for about nine minutes on May 25.

Chauvin, who is white, was not shackled and appeared thinner than in the bystander videos that captured the incident, according to a media pool report. His hair was cut short and he wore a blue surgical mask due to the novel coronavirus.

The death of Floyd, who was Black, sparked worldwide protests against racism and calls for police reforms nationwide that are still ongoing, reignited in recent weeks by incidents in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and Rochester, New York.

About 100 protesters had gathered outside the heavily fortified Family Justice Center, chanting “Black Lives Matter” and “no justice, no peace” as the hearing, which started at 9 a.m. CDT (10 a.m. EDT), got underway inside.

The other three former officers on the scene – J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao – are charged with aiding and abetting Floyd’s murder. Kueng, Lane and Thao all appeared in court wearing dark suits, according to the pool report.

All four men oppose a motion by prosecutors to consolidate their cases into one trial.

Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank said in court the cases should be combined, arguing that separate trials could delay justice for years and would traumatize Floyd’s family, according to KARE 11 reporter Lou Raguse.

Addressing the request by all four defendants to move their trials outside of Minneapolis due to concerns about pretrial publicity, Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill said he believed a questionnaire would need to be sent to potential jurors to see how they have been affected by the publicity around the case, Raguse wrote on Twitter.

(Reporting by Nick Pfosi in Minneapolis and Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

White nationalism upsurge in U.S. echoes historical pattern, say scholars

By Katanga Johnson and Jim Urquhart

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The first Black woman is on a major party presidential ticket, Americans of all races are showing their support for the Black Lives Matter movement and at the same time white nationalists are ramping up recruiting efforts and public activism.

That nationwide backing for America’s stated goal of equal rights for all has been met by a rise in hate-related activities is part of a decades-long pattern in the United States, six scholars and historians say – any expansion of civil rights for a minority group leads to a rise in intolerance.

“Each wave of civil rights progress brings us a little closer to real equity, but there will always be backlash from those who feel threatened by that progress,” said Cynthia Miller-Idriss, director of research with the Polarization and Extremism Research and Innovation Lab at American University in Washington. People who feel vulnerable to change become “eager to recruit and radicalize support to slow things down, even if by use of violence or radicalized propaganda,” she said.

After the first Black president, Barack Obama, was elected in 2008, the number of hate groups “ballooned,” Miller-Idriss said, just as Ku Klux Klan activity grew again after the 1954 Brown v. Board of Ed. decision desegregating schools, and during the 1960’s civil rights movement. Backlashes happened after women got the right to vote, and as LGBTQ rights expanded, too.

One of the things that makes this moment so heated is there’s been a bigger embrace by politicians, businesses and white people in general supporting racial justice movements than in the past, historians and civil rights experts said.

America rests on the “great social challenge of creating a successful harmonious, multiracial democracy,” said Simon Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress (CAP). The backlash against that accelerated during the Black Lives Matter protests and “is both a political one and a violent, social one,” he said.

Protests against excessive use of force by police and racism swept the United States, and the world, this summer after a Black man, George Floyd, died on May 25 while a white Minneapolis, Minnesota police officer kneeled on his neck.

The latest police shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake, in Kenosha, Wisconsin on Aug. 23 has sparked more protests that have sometimes become violent.

Two white nationalist groups, who want an independent state for whites, told Reuters their numbers are also increasing, which Reuters could not independently confirm. The National Socialist Movement Corporation and the ShieldWall Network said many of the new prospects reject the Black Lives Matter protesters mainly out of fear the demonstrations will impose on their freedoms, such as the right to bear arms.

“I’ve got guns. I’ve got a lot of bullets and an armor, too. And if people come down my street looking for trouble, I am going to fight it,” Burt Colucci, self-described commander of the Corporation, said a prospective recruit told him in a recent phone call.

The New York-based Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has documented 3,566 “extremist propaganda incidents” and events in 2020, compared to 2,704 in the same period of 2019. Almost 80% of this year’s cases involve white nationalist ideology, the civil rights advocacy organization found. Anti-Semitic incidents and plots and attacks of terrorism among others made up the rest, the ADL said.

MARCH IN WASHINGTON

Patriot Front, a white nationalist group, marched in Washington in February, and flyers and leaflets advertising the group have been found on college campuses from Arizona to Vermont in recent months. White nationalist groups posted messages on Facebook this summer advocating bringing guns to Black Lives Matter protests, and staged demonstrations in Florida and Pennsylvania in July.

While the ethnic and racial diversity of the United States is growing, whites remain a majority, about 60% of all Americans, according to Pew Research Center analysis published a year ago.

One-third of eligible voters in the Nov. 3 elections, in which Senator Kamala Harris of Jamaican and Indian parentage is running on Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s ticket, will be non-white, according to Pew, up from one-quarter in 2000.

Most Americans say they embrace diversity, according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll last year about race, society, and their political engagement. Sixty-three percent said the statement “I prefer to live in a community with people who come from diverse cultures” reflects their point of view.

Among registered Democrats, that affirmative answer jumped to 78%, while among Republicans it dropped to 45%.

In the election campaign, Biden has accused President Donald Trump of stoking divisions. The Trump campaign has said that the president “works hard to empower all Americans.”

‘HEAR THE RAGE’

“I’ve never seen the country so divided – not only divided, but charged, on all sides,” said Billy Roper of the Arkansas-based white nationalist organization, ShieldWall Network.

America has been at similar crossroads before, though, the scholars and historians interviewed by Reuters say.

The Ku Klux Klan, founded at the end of the U.S. Civil War, is the oldest and most violent of white extremist organizations, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) civil rights advocacy group. The KKK, bent on reversing the federal government’s progressive policies during the period known as Reconstruction, used violence against Black people in Southern states, particularly to deny them the newly-won right to vote.

Women’s voting rights, granted in 1920, coincided with a rise of the word “bitch” in newspapers around the country, Representative Pramila Jayapal said recently on the floor of the House of Representatives because, she contends, voting “was just a little too much power for too many men across the country.”

During the early years of the civil rights movement, a number of monuments honoring the war heroes of the Confederacy, the slavery-supporting states that lost the Civil War, were erected in the South, according to a SPLC report.

At least 780 monuments remained in public places in the South and elsewhere in the United States as of February 2019, the report said, among other Confederate symbols that are deeply divisive. Of those monuments, 604 were dedicated before 1950, but 28 others were unveiled from 1950 to 1970 and 34 after 2000.

National legalization of gay marriage in 2015 contributed to a powerful resurgence in conservative politics and legal challenges to LGBTQ rights, advocates said.

Colucci says his group has seen an uptick in calls and emails after racial justice protests and growing corporate and public support for Black Lives Matter and other groups.

“Some of those e-mails, I mean, you could just hear the rage,” he told Reuters.

(Reporting by Katanga Johnson in Washington and Jim Urquhart; Additional reporting by Chris Kahn; Editing by Heather Timmons and Grant McCool)

Trump visits Kenosha, not to urge racial healing but to back police

By Jeff Mason

KENOSHA, Wis. (Reuters) – President Donald Trump defied requests to stay away and visited Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Tuesday, not to urge racial healing after a white officer shot a Black man in the back but to express support for law enforcement in a city rocked by civil unrest.

With the United States polarized over issues of racial injustice and police use of force, Trump is appealing to his base of white supporters with a “law and order” message as opinion polls show him cutting into the lead of his Democratic rival, former vice president Joe Biden.

Meanwhile Trump has largely overlooked the racial wounds caused by police use of force and played down the more than 180,000 U.S. deaths from the coronavirus pandemic.

The Republican president also threatened to send more federal officers into cities governed by Democratic mayors even if local officials objected, saying, “At some point … we’ll just have to do it ourselves.”

Trump did not visit Jacob Blake, who was paralyzed from the waist down after a white police officer fired at his back seven times on Aug. 23. He did not meet Blake’s family either, but did meet with his mother’s pastors.

He promised instead to rebuild Kenosha and provide more federal spending to Wisconsin, a political battleground state that Trump won narrowly in 2016 and badly needs to keep in his column as he seeks re-election on Nov. 3.

The president visited a burned-out furniture store that was destroyed in the upheaval and then a makeshift command center to praise National Guard troops who were called in to reinforce local police after several nights of peaceful protests gave way to looting, arson and gunfire.

“These are not acts of peaceful protest, but really domestic terror,” Trump told local business leaders in a high school gym.

Peaceful demonstrators have complained that violent agitators, often white, have hijacked their protests with property damage. But many have also sharply criticized the police, saying the United States needs to completely rethink its law enforcement practices.

“To stop the political violence, we must also confront the radical ideology. … We have to condemn the dangerous anti-police rhetoric,” Trump said, adding that without his help Kenosha would have “burned to the ground.”

APPEAL TO ‘CHANGE THE HEARTS’

The visit was not completely without empathy. While Trump dodged questions about systemic racism and problems in policing, he did say that he felt “terribly for anybody who goes through that,” referring to the police shooting, and that he was honored to meet with the co-pastors of Blake’s mother, the only two Black people at Trump’s round-table.

Pastor James Ward appealed for greater efforts to “change the hearts of people” and bring healing and peace to the community, while his wife and co-pastor Sharon Ward said, “I think it’s important to have Black people at the table to help solve the problem.”

The state’s Democratic governor and the city’s Democratic mayor both had urged Trump not to visit so as to avoid inflaming tensions and allow citizens to heal. But when he showed up, the president pledged $1 million in federal support to Kenosha law enforcement, $4 million to small businesses, and $42 million to public safety statewide, contrasting that with leftist calls to “defund the police.”

Much of the country has rallied to the side of civil rights since George Floyd, a Black man, died on May 25 after a white police officer knelt on his neck. The country was reckoning with that case when Blake was shot as he entered his car on Aug. 23.

Kenosha has become one of the flash-point cities where anti-racist demonstrators have clashed with Trump supporters who have converged on protest sites, sometimes openly carrying arms while vowing to protect property from looters.

A 17-year-old Trump supporter has been charged with killing two people and wounding another with a semi-automatic rifle in Kenosha. Trump defended the white teenager, who faces six criminal counts, and declined to condemn violence from his supporters.

But in Portland, Oregon, site of three months of nightly protests that have often turned violent, a Trump supporter was shot dead on Saturday and the president lamented that “they executed a man in the street.”

The president took credit for restoring peace in Kenosha since National Guard and federal law enforcement reinforcements were sent in. Although Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers called in more National Guard troops on his own authority, Trump did send in about 200 federal law enforcement officials.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Additonal reporting by Andrea Shalal and Phil Stewart; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Howard Goller)

Protesters sue Kenosha claiming arrests, curfew violate U.S. Constitution

By Keith Coffman

(Reuters) – Four people arrested for curfew violations while protesting the shooting of a Black man by a white policeman in Kenosha, Wisconsin sued the city and county governments on Tuesday, claiming they were denied free speech rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

The plaintiffs argue that more than 150 people protesting the shooting have been taken into custody while pro-police demonstrators have been allowed to freely take to the streets, according to the lawsuit filed in federal court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin.

“In Kenosha, there are two sets of laws – one that applies to those who protest police brutality and racism, and another for those who support the police,” the plaintiffs argue in their complaint, which seeks a temporary restraining order until the litigation can be heard in court.

Reuters could not reach city and county officials for comment after business hours.

Kenosha has been the scene of sometimes violent protests after video footage surfaced showing a police officer shooting Jacob Blake, 29, multiple times in the back.

Blake was left paralyzed from the waist down and the officer, Rusten Sheskey, was placed on administrative leave during an investigation.

The protesters claim in their lawsuit that police were using the curfew to prevent them from taking part in constitutionally protected activity.

The plaintiffs also say police are selectively enforcing the curfew by not arresting pro-police demonstrators, a violation of equal protection under the law guaranteed by the constitution.

The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified monetary damages, was filed on the same day that U.S. President Donald Trump visited Kenosha over the objections of some local officials.

(Reporting by Keith Coffman in Denver; Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Stephen Coates)

Teenager in Wisconsin shootings charged with six criminal counts: complaint

By Nathan Layne

(Reuters) – Kyle Rittenhouse, a teenager arrested and charged in the shootings in Wisconsin that led to the death of two people and injury of another, faces six criminal counts, according to a court document released on Thursday.

The charges against Rittenhouse in Kenosha County include first degree intentional homicide in the death of Anthony Huber, who was carrying a skateboard when he was gunned down. A conviction on that charge alone carries a life sentence.

Rittenhouse, 17, is being held in Illinois where he lives. He has a court hearing on Friday for his requested extradition to Kenosha. The public defender assigned to his case in Lake County, Illinois has declined to comment.

The charges were detailed in a criminal complaint released by Kenosha County’s clerk of courts. The document is the first detailed disclosure of the case against Rittenhouse for his role in the violence that erupted on Tuesday night when armed militia members clashed with protesters in the city.

The protests started after Jacob Blake was shot multiple times in the back by a police officer on Sunday afternoon.

Rittenhouse was also charged with causing the death of Joseph Rosenbaum, a 36-year-old demonstrator who he shot in the parking lot of a used car dealer just before midnight on Tuesday, according to the complaint, which draws on multiple cell phone videos and witness accounts.

One video records Rittenhouse saying “I just killed somebody” after shooting Rosenbaum, the complaint says.

Rittenhouse was carrying a Smith & Wesson AR-15 style rifle and “was not handling the weapon very well,” one witness states in the complaint. “The recovered magazine for this rifle holds 30 rounds of ammunition,” the complaint says.

The complaint says one video shows Huber, with a skateboard in his right hand, approaching Rittenhouse when he was on the ground. Huber appears then to try and grab the gun from Rittenhouse with his left hand before Rittenhouse fires.

“Huber staggers away, taking several steps, then collapses to the ground. Huber subsequently died from this gunshot wound,” the complaint says.

(Reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; Editing by Chris Reese and Grant McCool)

Wisconsin city calm but police shooting reverberates across U.S.

By Brendan McDermid and Stephen Maturen

KENOSHA, Wis. (Reuters) – Relative calm returned to Kenosha, Wisconsin, overnight after the previous night’s deadly gun violence, and investigators revealed new details about the police shooting that paralyzed a Black man and revived a wave of protests over racial injustice.

Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul on Wednesday identified Rusten Sheskey as the white police officer who fired seven shots at the back of Jacob Blake after Blake opened his car door on Sunday. Kaul also said investigators found a knife on the floor of Blake’s car.

That announcement, combined with the arrest of a 17-year-old suspect charged with homicide over the previous night’s gunfire, set the stage for what could have been another night of chaos on the streets of Kenosha, about 40 miles (60 km) south of Milwaukee.

Shockwaves from the events in the city of about 100,000 were felt throughout the United States as professional athletes went on strike and anti-racism street protests intensified in other cities. At the Republican National Convention, Vice President Mike Pence and other speakers demanded “law and order.”

But in Kenosha, after three nights of civil strife – including arson, vandalism and the shootings that killed two people on Tuesday night – calm appeared to take hold on Wednesday night and Thursday morning.

About 200 protesters defied a curfew and marched peacefully through city streets, chanting, “Black lives matter” and “no justice, no peace” in response to the shooting of Blake, 29, in the presence of three of his young sons.

Law enforcement officers kept a low profile, and counter demonstrators and armed militia figures were notably absent.

Prior nights had seen an array of rifle-toting civilians among them 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, who was arrested on Wednesday on homicide charges in connection with Tuesday night’s shootings. Rittenhouse, a police supporter, was arrested at his home in Antioch, Illinois, about 20 miles (30 km) away.

PLAYERS ON STRIKE

National Basketball Association players led by the Milwaukee Bucks went on strike to protest racial injustice during the playoffs, putting the rest of the season in jeopardy.

Players in Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer and the Women’s National Basketball followed with their own wildcat strikes, and tennis player Naomi Osaka pulled out of a tournament in Ohio.

The Kenosha turmoil struck while much of the United States remained agitated over George Floyd, who died on May 25 after a Minneapolis policeman knelt on his neck.

In Minneapolis, authorities declared a state of emergency on Wednesday to quell unrest sparked by the death of a Black homicide suspect who police say shot himself.

Police in Oakland, California, said hundreds of people took part in demonstrations that resulted in fires, broken windows and vandalized businesses. And police and protesters continued to clash in Portland, Oregon, where demonstrations have gone on for nearly three months straight.

In the police shooting that sparked the latest wave of outrage, Sheskey, a seven-year veteran of the Kenosha police force, fired seven times at Blake’s back, hitting him four times.

Blake survived despite wounds to his spine and multiple organs, and he may be permanently paralyzed, his family’s lawyers said.

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, one of the lawyers representing Blake’s family, disputed the report that Blake had a knife.

“Jacob Blake didn’t harm anyone or pose any threat to the police, yet they shot him seven times in the back in front of his children,” Crump said.

“But when a young white supremacist shot and killed two peaceful protesters, local law enforcement and National Guardsmen allowed him to walk down the street with his assault weapon,” Crump and his co-counsels said in a statement, without offering proof that Rittenhouse was a racist.

They were referring to video from the previous night that showed the person who had just fired on protesters was able to walk past a battery of police without being arrested.

Authorities later caught up with Rittenhouse, whose since-deleted Facebook page shows him posing with another young man, both of them holding rifles. The photo is encircled by a Blue Lives Matter badge in support of police.

(Additional reporting by Nathan Layne, Daniel Trotta, Ann Maria Shibu and Kanishka Singh; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Nick Macfie and Jonathan Oatis)

Wisconsin investigators say knife found at scene of police shooting of Jacob Blake

By Brendan McDermid and Stephen Maturen

KENOSHA, Wis. (Reuters) – Investigators of a shooting by a white police officer that left a Black man, Jacob Blake Jr., paralyzed and the town of Kenosha, Wisconsin, torn by civil strife found a knife belonging to Blake at the scene of the confrontation, the state attorney general said on Wednesday.

The incident sparked three nights of civil unrest that has included a wave of arson, widespread vandalism and a separate shooting that claimed two lives in Kenosha, a city of about 100,000 residents on Lake Michigan, 40 miles (60 km) south of Milwaukee.

In the first official details of Sunday’s shooting released by the Wisconsin Justice Department, which is probing the incident, Attorney General Josh Kaul said the knife was recovered from the driver-side front floorboard of the car Blake was leaning into when he was shot in the back.

Kaul also told a news conference that Blake, during the course of the investigation, had “admitted that he had a knife in his possession.”

Blake’s lawyer responded in a statement that his client posed no threat to police and disputed that he was in possession of a knife.

Kaul did not describe the knife or say whether it had anything to do with why the officer, a seven-year veteran of the Kenosha police department identified as Rusten Sheskey, had opened fire on Blake.

Kaul’s briefing came shortly before the U.S. Justice Department announced it had opened a federal civil rights inquiry into the shooting, to be conducted by the FBI in cooperation with Wisconsin authorities.

In a separate development hours earlier, a teenager was arrested and charged with shooting three people, two of whom died, during Tuesday night’s protests in Kenosha.

Video footage from that incident showed a white gunman, armed with an assault-style rifle, firing at protesters who tried to subdue him, and then calmly walking away from the scene, hands in the air – his rifle hanging in front of him – as several police vehicles drive by without stopping him.

Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes said on MSNBC the suspect, later identified as Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, of Antioch, Illinois, was apparently a militia group member who “decided to be a vigilante and take the law into his own hands and mow down innocent protesters.”

Bracing for a fourth night of possible upheavals on Wednesday, Governor Tony Evers said he was doubling the National Guard force he had ordered deployed to 500 troops, and a dusk-to-dawn curfew was imposed an hour earlier.

About 200 protesters defied the curfew for hours after dark as they marched peacefully through city streets, chanting, “Black lives matter” and “No justice, no peace,” while law enforcement kept a low profile. No counter-demonstrators or armed militia figures were present.

National Guard soldiers were seen taking a dinner break behind the county courthouse, surrounded by barricades and heavy fencing erected around several downtown public buildings the previous day.

PREAMBLE TO SHOOTING

By Kaul’s account of events leading to the Blake shooting, city police confronted Blake when they were called to the home of a woman who reported that her boyfriend was present “and was not supposed to be on the premises.”

The location he gave for the residence corresponds with the address of the woman identified in media reports as Blake’s fiance, Laquisha Booker.

During the incident, Kaul said, police tried to arrest Blake, using a Taser stun gun in a failed attempt to subdue him.

Blake, according to the attorney general, then walked around his vehicle, opened the driver-side door and leaned forward, as officer Sheskey, clutching Blake’s shirt, fired his weapon seven times at Blake’s back.

Kaul said no other police officers fired their weapons. The officers involved have been placed on administrative leave.

Bystanders captured the encounter in video footage that has since gone viral, unleashing public outrage at the latest in a long series of instances in which police have been accused of using indiscriminate lethal force against African Americans.

Kaul said police in Kenosha are not equipped with body cameras.

A lawyer for Blake’s family, civil rights attorney Ben Crump, issued a statement late Wednesday saying Blake “did nothing to provoke police” and was “only intending to get his children out of a volatile situation” at the time.

“Witnesses confirm that he was not in possession of a knife and didn’t threaten officers in any way,” he added.

Three of Blake’s young sons – aged 3, 5 and 8 – were in the vehicle at the time and witnessed their father being gunned down, Crump said. Blake has a total of six children.

Neither Crump nor law enforcement officials have mentioned court records showing that an arrest warrant was filed against Blake in July by Kenosha’s district attorney for three domestic abuse-related charges – criminal trespass, disorderly conduct and third-degree sexual assault, a felony.

Crump has declined to respond to Reuters queries about those records, which list Blake’s address as the same street number where Booker is reported to reside.

According to Crump, Blake was struck by four of the seven gunshot rounds fired at him on Sunday. Bullets shattered some of his vertebrae, leaving Blake paralyzed from the waist down, possibly permanently, his lawyers said. He also suffered wounds to his stomach, intestines, kidney and liver and will require multiple operations to recover, they said.

Kaul said his department’s division of criminal investigations plans to issue a full report on the incident to prosecutors in 30 days, and that no other details were immediately available.

Blake’s family and protesters have demanded the officers involved in the shooting be immediately fired and prosecuted.

(Reporting by Nathan Layne, Maria Caspani and Jonathan Allen; Writing and additional reporting by Steve Gorman; editing by Jonathan Oatis, Bill Berkrot, Aurora Ellis, Lincoln Feast and William Mallard)

Two dead as gunfire erupts at Wisconsin protests over shooting of Black man

By Brendan McDermid and Stephen Maturen

KENOSHA, Wis. (Reuters) – Two people died and a third was wounded after street protests over the police shooting of a Black man erupted into gun violence late Tuesday and early Wednesday in Kenosha, Wisconsin, police said.

The Lake Michigan city of about 100,000 has been rocked by civil unrest since Sunday, when police shot Jacob Blake, 29, in the back at point-blank range. The incident, captured on video, has reignited protests over racism and police use of force in the United States.

The third straight night of protests, which coincided with the second night of the Republican National Convention, had appeared to turn calm after police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters who defied a curfew.

But with a combustible mix of demonstrators still roaming the streets – including self-appointed militias armed with rifles – tensions boiled over shortly before midnight, leading to chaotic scenes of people running and screaming amid a volley of gunfire and others tending to gunshot wounds.

It remained uncertain what prompted the initial gunfire, though it involved a white man with a rifle who wrangled with and fired on other civilians, then walked past several police cars without being arrested, video on social media showed.

The Kenosha protests have drawn mostly peaceful demonstrators under the Black Lives Matter banner, but a range of white and Black people have caused trouble late at night, setting fires, vandalizing public property and bashing vehicles with baseball bats.

The Kenosha Guard, a group identifying itself as a local militia on Facebook, posted a message warning authorities ahead of time they would be present on city streets.

“We are unaware if the armed citizen was answering the Kenosha Guard Militia’s call to arms,” the group later posted on Facebook. “Just like with the shooting of Jacob Blake, we need all the facts and evidence to come out before we make a judgement. God Bless and stay safe Kenosha!”

Democratic Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers deployed 250 members the National Guard to help restore order after the first night of unrest. But U.S. Representative Bryan Steil, a Republican whose district includes Kenosha, said more force was needed.

Republican President Donald Trump had offered to deploy federal law enforcement officers, Steil said.

“Last night the situation went from bad to worse,” Steil said in a statement. “The violence must be stopped.”

Anti-racism protesters also clashed with police in Portland, Oregon, and Louisville, Kentucky, on Tuesday night, part of a wave of national protests that have continued since the May 25 death of George Floyd, a Black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck.

CHAOS ON VIDEO

Social media videos show crowds in Kenosha chasing the gunman down the street after they believed he had shot another man. The gunman falls to the ground where he comes under attack, but he fires a number of rounds, appearing to hit a man in the torso who falls to the ground and seriously wounding another man in the arm.

As the crowd disperses around him, the man walks freely down the street with his hands in the air and rifle hanging in front of him.

Several police vehicles, apparently responding to the mayhem, drive past the man without stopping him. There have been no reports of an arrest.

Kenosha police said in a statement that two people died and a third gunshot victim was taken to a hospital with serious injuries, though he was expected to live. They pleaded for witnesses to come forward, asking for additional video or photos beyond those posted on social media.

Other videos showed a white man who appeared to be shot in the head as several people rushed to his aid, frantically trying to treat his wound and keep him alive.

Yet another video showed a white man with a severe arm wound sitting on the ground and being aided by an armed man as police approached.

BLAKE ‘FIGHTING FOR LIFE’

The protests began in Kenosha, located between Milwaukee and Chicago, on Sunday after video of Jacob Blake’s shooting that afternoon went viral.

After struggling with police, Blake broke free and walked around his SUV to the driver’s side, where he was shot in the back after opening the door. Three of his young sons were in the car, witnesses said.

Blake was hit by four of the seven shots fired and left paralyzed and “fighting for his life,” his family and lawyers said on Tuesday, hours before the latest round of civil unrest broke out in Kenosha.

Blake underwent another round of lengthy surgery on Tuesday to stabilize his spine with rods and screws, and it may take days or weeks to determine the extent of the damage, Patrick Salvi Sr., a lawyer for Blake’s family, told CNN on Wednesday.

Salvi also said Kenosha officials have been “tight-lipped” about their investigation into the shooting, depriving the family of the police officers’ version of what happened.

“Anyone watching that video cannot understand why in God’s name the officer starts shooting at point-blank range at Jacob,” Salvi said. “We’re going to find out.”

The Wisconsin Department of Justice is leading the investigation and has yet to comment.

(Additional reporting by Daniel Trotta, Nathan Layne, Peter Szekely, Susan Heavey, Kanishka Singh and Ann Maria Shibu; Editing by Andrew Heavens, Nick Macfie and Jonathan Oatis)

Wisconsin city center burns amid protests over police shooting of Black man

KENOSHA, Wis. (Reuters) – Arsonists set buildings ablaze and torched much of the Black business district in Kenosha, Wisconsin, during a second night of unrest sparked by the wounding of a Black man shot in the back by police as his three young sons looked on.

Kenosha County Board of Supervisors member Zach Rodriguez said the board would hold an emergency meeting on Tuesday on seeking federal help, such as U.S. Marshals Service officers, to quell the unrest after some 300 rioters set fire to buildings overnight.

“Essentially, our city was burned to the ground, building by building,” he told Reuters. “Enough is enough.”

Smoke billowed over central Kenosha after police in riot gear clashed with protesters as they defied a dusk-to-dawn curfew on Monday night and Tuesday morning, near where police gunned down Jacob Blake on Sunday.

Blake, 29, remained in intensive care following surgery and would require more operations, civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who represents the Blake family, told ABC News on Tuesday. Blake’s father told the Chicago Sun-Times his son was paralyzed from the waist down.

Video shows Blake walking toward the driver’s side door of his car, away from two officers who were pointing guns to his back. After he opens the door, seven shots ring out with one of the officers tugging at his shirt. It remains unknown what the officers may have seen inside Blake’s car.

But the incident, the latest in a litany of cases to focus attention on police treatment of African Americans, unleashed outrage in the lakefront city of Kenosha, located north of Chicago and south of Milwaukee.

The shooting occurred three months after the death of George Floyd, a Black man in Minneapolis who was pinned to the street under the knee of a white police officer, sparking nationwide protests against police brutality and racism.

Unrest flared again elsewhere in the United States with overnight clashes reported in Portland, Seattle and Minneapolis, while in New York City a group of marchers swarmed the Brooklyn Bridge, social media video showed.

Portland, Oregon, has been the scene of weeks of protests following Floyd’s death that have sometimes turned violent. Police there once again declared a riot late on Monday and arrested several demonstrators after fires were lit at the offices of a police union.

Seattle police said demonstrators set multiple buildings on fire, resulting in at least one arrest and one officer injured.

In Minneapolis, protesters including one man armed with a long gun stopped an armored police vehicle in the street until officers cleared the way with tear gas.

Basketball star LeBron James, who has emerged as a national leader on issues of race, lent his voice to the protests, telling reporters covering the NBA playoffs that “we are scared as Black people in America. … We are terrified.”

“Why does it always have to get to a point where we see the guns firing,” said James, adding he believed police had ample opportunity to subdue Blake.

FIRES, BASEBALL BATS

Black Lives Matter activists are demanding the immediate firing or arrest of the Kenosha officers, who have been placed on administrative leave.

Hours into the curfew, the mostly peaceful demonstration turned violent with some protesters setting off fireworks in front of police. Commercial and government buildings were set ablaze, along with vehicles in car dealership lots.

Local police who had support from National Guard troops fired tear gas, rubber bullets and smoke bombs to disperse the crowd, which grew to several hundred, according to protester Porche Bennett, 31, of Kenosha.

Fires destroyed much of the Black business district, Bennett said, adding that the instigators she saw were white.

“It’s people from out of town doing this. We’ve been shopping there since we were kids and they set it on fire,” Bennett said.

Social media images showed both white and Black agitators. Black men swinging baseball bats broke traffic signals and street lamps. White and Black men with bats bashed in the headlights and windshields of a row of cars.

One white man riding a skateboard doused a government truck with an accelerant and set it on fire. Heavily armed white civilians stood guard in front of one business to protect it from vandals.

Kenosha, a city of 100,000 people, is nearly 12 percent Black and about 67 percent white, according to U.S. Census data.

At least one man was injured, shown on social media bleeding from the head as civilians administered aid.

(Reporting by Stephen Maturen in Kenosha, Wis.; Additional reporting by Nathan Layne, Daniel Trotta, Kanishka Singh and Trevor Hunnicutt; Writing by Steve Gorman and Daniel Trotta; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Chizu Nomiyama)