Protesters set fires, vandalize buildings after Kenosha police shoot man

Officers deployed tear gas early Monday to disperse hundreds of people who took to the streets following a police shooting in Kenosha that also drew a harsh rebuke from the governor after a video posted on social media appeared to show officers shoot at a Black man’s back seven times as he leaned into a vehicle.

A person was hospitalized in serious condition following a shooting by officers about 5 p.m. Sunday as officers were responding to a “domestic incident,” the Kenosha Police Department said in a news release. Police did not provide details about what led to the shooting, but said the person was transported to a hospital in Milwaukee for treatment.

By late Sunday, multiple vehicle fires had been set and windows smashed along city thoroughfares as crowds faced off with law enforcement. Officers in riot gear stood in lines and SWAT vehicles remained on the streets to move people away from city buildings despite the declaration of an overnight curfew. Tear gas was used to disperse groups of people, according to reporters at the scene.

In the video posted earlier on social media that appeared to show the shooting from across a street, three officers could be seen shouting and pointing their weapons at the man as he walked around the front of a parked SUV. As the man opened the driver’s side door and leaned inside, one officer grabbed his shirt from behind and then fired into the vehicle. Seven shots could be heard on the video, though it was unclear if more than one officer fired.

The Kenosha News reported that the man was trying to break up a fight between two women when police were called to 40th Street and 28th Avenue. The Kenosha News reported that the man was shot in front of his children.

Gov. Tony Evers on Sunday night condemned the shooting of the man whom he identified as Jacob Blake, saying in a statement that “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.”

The Wisconsin Department of Justice, which is investigating the shooting, did not release any details about the involved officers except to say they have been placed on administrative leave.

Following the shooting, social media posts showed neighbors gathering in the surrounding streets and hurling comments at police. Some could be heard chanting “no justice, no peace” while others appeared to throw objects at officers and damage police vehicles.

Later Sunday, in a scene that mirrored the months of protests over racial injustice around the world that have followed the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other Black people killed by police, marchers headed to the Kenosha County Public Safety Building, which authorities mostly blocked off. Protesters marched along lines of cars honking on their way to the station. Some police officers were positioned on the roof of the station as people continued toward the building.

Outside the station, protesters clashed with officers dressed in riot gear that included plastic facemasks and held plastic shields and batons that they occasionally used to push people back.

Hundreds of people gathered at the scene of the shooting, chanting "Black Lives Matter" and yelling at police. A law enforcement vehicle window was smashed.

On Monday morning, fires were still burning in the area of the Kenosha Police Department, City Hall and Kenosha County Sheriff. Video from that area shows people smashing windows, setting fires in dumpsters, and confronting police.

Kenosha officials said that the Kenosha Sheriff’s Department and Wisconsin State Patrol were requested so that the scene could be turned over to an agency other than Kenosha Police.The Wisconsin Department of Justice (D.O.J.), Division of Criminal Investigation (D.C.I.) will be investigating. 

Evers meanwhile indicated an intention to further respond to the shooting.

“I have said all along that although we must offer our empathy, equally important is our action,” he said. “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.”

Kenosha is a town of about 100,000 people, located on Lake Michigan about halfway between Milwaukee and Chicago.