'They keep pushing it downstream': Father of man killed by Kenosha police in 2004 reveals anger at Jacob Blake shooting

Kenosha prepares for another night of protests in the wake of Mr Blake’s shooting

Graig Graziosi
Wednesday 26 August 2020 05:30 BST
Jacob Blake Sr speaks to reporters after son shot by police

A father whose son was killed by the Kenosha police department in 2004 has spoken out against the department in the wake of the Jacob Blake shooting.

Michael Bell Sr's son was killed by a Kenosha police officer in 2004 during a struggle following a traffic stop in front of the man's home.

Mr Bell - whose son was white - said he could sympathise with the family's trauma as he watched the video that captured Mr Blake's shooting.

He told CBS News that seeing the woman screaming in the aftermath of the shooting distressed him, as his son was also shot in front of witnesses, including loved ones. When Mr Bell was shot, his mother and sister were only feet away.

Mr Blake was shot on Sunday by police as he was trying to walk away from them and enter his vehicle. An officer shot him eight times in the back. Mr Blake's children were in the vehicle during the shooting.

The shooting was caught on video and spread quickly through social media, fuelling the fire of protesters demonstrating against police violence towards black people in the wake of the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor earlier this summer.

"My own daughter and son's mother witnessed my son being shot," Mr Bell told CBS News. "I know the trauma they had to live through, and they're still not right. Nobody understands the pain the family is going through - it's a degree of suffering nobody understands until they experience it themselves."

Attorney Ben Crump - who is also representing George Floyd's family - is representing the Blake family and believes the children in the car will be traumatised from the experience.

"These kids, these babies, are going to have psychological issues for their entire life," Mr Crump said.

The officers involved in the death of Mr Bell claimed he grabbed for one of their guns, prompting another officer to shoot him in the head. However, doubt was cast over the truth of their account by follow-up reports on the incident. Eventually the city of Kenosha settled the case with the Bell family for $1.75m. One of the officers involved in the shooting committed suicide in 2010.

Mr Bell has since advocated for reforms to the methods used to investigate shootings by police. He suggests following a similar method to the National Transportation Safety Advisory Board's protocol for investigating aviation accidents, which employs the use of independent investigators.

He believes that method could help not only provide justice for families in cases where a shooting was unjustified, but also could educate the community, as "once the cause of an accident is determined by the safety board, that information is distributed throughout the community to reduce the chances of it happening again."

He said that at very least, the Kenosha police should be compelled to wear body cameras.

"Body cameras in many ways are like the black box on an airplane -- they record all the critical data at the moment of death that's important. If you want to turn around and make the system better, you have to have a root cause analysis," he said. "We have asked for body cameras here in Kenosha, and they just keep pushing it downstream."

Mr Blake's shooting sparked protests and - in some instances - looting and the destruction of businesses in Kenosha.

Wisconsin's governor declared a state of emergency on Tuesday as anger over the shooting boiled over.

State officials are preparing for another night of protests and potential destruction as it was announced today that while Mr Blake survived the shooting, he will be paralysed from the waist down as a result.

Governor Tony Evers said he planned to deploy more National Guard troops to Kenosha to prepare for the unrest.

"We cannot allow the cycle of systemic racism and injustice to continue," Mr Evers said. "We also cannot continue going down this path of damage and destruction."

Zach Rodriguez, a member of the Kenosha County Board of Supervisors, told Reuters that the destruction had to stop.

"Essentially, our city was burned to the ground, building by building," he said. "Enough is enough."

For protesters, "enough is enough" is a shared sentiment. Clyde McLemore, the president of a Black Lives Matter group in nearby Lake County, Illinois, said demonstrators would continue to protest violence against black individuals by police.

"We won't stop protesting until we get that done," he said. "I don't condone burning of buildings or looting, but I understand it. Them places got insurance, they'll be back up."

Another protester, Porche Bennett, said the fires were largely started by people from out of town, and said the fires mostly affected businesses in a district primarily visited by the black community.

"It's people from out of town doing this. We've been shopping there since we were kids, and they set it on fire," she said.

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