- David BowenDemocratic state representative in Wisconsin.
In Kenosha, Wisconsin, District Attorney Michael Graveley has announced that no charges will be filed against the white police officer who fired seven shots at Jacob Blake, paralyzing the 29-year-old Black man in August. Officer Rusten Sheskey fired the shots at point-blank range into Blake’s back as he leaned into his car, with his three children, aged 3, 5 and 8, inside the vehicle. Prosecutors maintain the shooting was in self-defense because Blake had a small knife in the car. Video of Blake’s shooting sparked an uprising in Kenosha in August against systemic racism and police brutality. Blake’s family denounced the ruling. “In this situation, again, we see a miscarriage of justice,” says Wisconsin state Representative David Bowen. “We do not see a DA that is able to charge an officer who uses his discretion to put seven shots in the back of a Black man.”
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. We end the show in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
MICHAEL GRAVELEY: And it is my decision now, that I announce today before you, that no Kenosha law enforcement officer in this case will be charged with any criminal offense, based on the facts and the laws as I will describe them to you now. So it is our decision that no charge will be filed.
AMY GOODMAN: Those were the words of Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley, announcing no charges will be filed against the white police officer who fired seven shots at point-blank range into the back of Jacob Blake, paralyzing the 29-year-old Black man in August. The officer, Rusten Sheskey, fired those shots into Blake’s back as he leaned into his car — inside, his three little boys, aged 3, 5 and 8. Prosecutors maintain the shooting was in self-defense because Blake had a small knife. Video of Jacob Blake’s shooting sparked an uprising in Kenosha in August against racism and police brutality.
B’Ivory LaMarr, an attorney for the Blake family, criticized the ruling.
B’IVORY LAMARR: I think, in 2021, it shows one very important thing. And that is that there’s three — three — justice systems in America. There’s one for Black and Brown people, one for police officers and one for the rest of America.
AMY GOODMAN: Jacob Blake’s father, Jacob Blake Sr., also spoke on Tuesday about his son’s ongoing recovery.
JACOB BLAKE SR.: He’s in pain 24 hours a day. But sometimes he has better days than others. And, of course, his body has been peppered with bullets, seven in his back. They did a surgery on his back, a fusion surgery. But the incredible amount of pain from the muscle spasms, to sit there and have to watch it day in and day out, as demoralizing as it is for you, think about how that is on a 29-year-old that was fully functional before this.
REPORTER: How are your grandchildren doing?
JACOB BLAKE SR.: It’s hard on my grandchildren, but we’re there to support them. It’s very hard on them, because they don’t understand. They don’t understand why daddy can’t get up and chase them around or play with them anymore. But they’re understanding that they saw, with their own two eyes. They didn’t believe — and this may sound — the first two weeks, they really thought we were lying to them probably. They thought that their father was gone and that he wasn’t going to come back. And I used to — I had to keep telling them, “No, he’s here. He’s here. I’m going to” — because we couldn’t take them in, because of the COVID, to see their father. You know, a child needs to see what’s going on. And that’s what they wanted to see.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Jacob Blake Sr., speaking on Tuesday, standing next to the Reverend Jesse Jackson.
We’re joined now by David Bowen, a Democratic state representative in Milwaukee.
Welcome to Democracy Now! You were our in the streets protesting after Jacob Blake was shot by the white police officer. Your response to the district attorney’s decision?
REP. DAVID BOWEN: Absolutely. First off, thank you to the Blake family for being as strong as they are, folks that have been out continuously protesting, not giving up, always focused on the true goal, and that is justice. And in this situation, again, we see a miscarriage of justice. We do not see a DA that is able to charge an officer who uses his discretion to put seven shots in the back of a Black man that did not deserve it.
We go to the details of how he describes why he is not charging, and first thing he goes to is state law, the same state law that me and Democrats attempted to change in the Wisconsin state Legislature, where Republicans blocked it completely, did not allow votes at all on any of the governor’s call for the special session bills, many of whom I continue to co-sponsor and lead. And this falls on our state Republicans, who refuse to allow this change.
So, at this point, this is what they want. This is what they are ushering in. They want this status quo, so Black folks in Wisconsin can continue to be hurt and suffer attacks like these that leave us in deliberate states of not being able to function the same, not having access to be able to have our day in court, like any other white person that would leave a scene, any other white person that pretty much has something in their hands or weapon in their hands and does not use it on the police officer, but they are there susceptible to whatever the decision that those officers are using. And having this blank check of feeling threatened is now at the center of this debate. It is not and it should not be allowed for an officer to be able to use discretion to put seven shots in the back of a Black man and never use that same action towards anybody that is white that does anything similar or even worse to the police.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Representative Bowen, what are the next steps for you and other progressive legislators in terms of the fight for police reform in your state?
REP. DAVID BOWEN: Yes, the next step is for there to be equity. The DA, in his explanation yesterday, never went into the history of this officer. He continued to go only into the history of Jacob Blake. He did not get an official statement from the person that made the 911 phone call.
Using force on an individual that potentially could crash a vehicle, can potentially crash a rental car, does not give law enforcement the right to use that level of force. And that’s why we’re going right back to the same statewide standard that we called for in the last session, that Republicans refused to take up. Lethal force needs to be used as a last resort, not the first. Prioritizing life needs to be on the state statute as a duty for officers to uphold, and to use deescalation tactics, so that there is a requirement by state law in the state of Wisconsin for our officers to follow. And we’re even finding support even among those in law enforcement. But it is the GOP, it is the Wisconsin Republicans, that stand in the way of that change.
So, we are going to continue to move in that direction with a number of the bills that we brought up last time, and even more now, where we attempted to have a very even moderate proposal of Democrat and Republican ideas, and that was being called too much. That was being called extreme. Now we will move forward in bringing forward policies that we know that will get to the heart of this situation, and they will come from the people. They will come from those who have been out in the streets, who have been out engaging in protest.
AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you, David Bowen, for joining us, Democratic state representative in Wisconsin. In the coming days, we hope to be speaking with Jacob Blake’s father, Jacob Blake Sr.
A happy belated birthday to Dennis McCormick. Democracy Now! produced with Renée Feltz, Mike Burke, Deena Guzder, Libby Rainey, Nermeen Shaikh, María Taracena, Carla Wills, Tami Woronoff, Charina Nadura, Sam Alcoff, Tey-Marie Astudillo, John Hamilton, Robby Karran, Hany Massoud, Adriano Contreras. Our general manager, Julie Crosby. Special thanks to Becca Staley, Miriam Barnard, Denis Moynihan. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. Thanks so much.