'It's dangerous being a cop': Lindsey Graham says Jacob Blake was 'asked to yield' before being shot seven times in back

South Carolina senator made comments at a press conference announcing the state's Fraternal Order of Police was endorsing him

Griffin Connolly
Washington
Wednesday 26 August 2020 15:39 BST
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Jacob Blake's family give emotional comments following police shooting
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Senator Lindsey Graham has indicated he is not jumping to any conclusions on why police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, shot 29-year-old Jacob Blake in the back seven times, saying Mr Blake, who is black, "didn't yield" to officers' orders.

The South Carolina Republican, one of President Donald Trump's closest confidants in the Senate, made the comments about Mr Blake's shooting at a press conference announcing the South Carolina Fraternal Order of Police's endorsement of his re-election campaign.

“I don't know what happened there. Let's find out. It's dangerous being a cop,” Mr Graham said, when asked on Tuesday about Mr Blake being shot on 23 August.

“I don't know why the gentleman didn't yield when he was asked to yield. I don't know what the facts are," Mr Graham said.

Mr Blake is alive, but now paralysed from the waist down, the family's attorney, Ben Crump, has told reporters. It would take a "miracle" for Mr Blake to walk again, Mr Crump said.

His father, Jacob Blake Sr, told reporters on Tuesday that the shooting amounted to "senseless" attempted murder.

“They shot my son seven times” he said, holding back tears. “Seven times. Like he didn’t matter, but my son matters. He’s a human being, and he matters.”

Mr Graham is expected to win his race this November against Democratic candidate Jaime Harrison, a well-funded former state party chairman, although the margin could be tighter than in years past in deep-red South Carolina.

That race is rated Likely Republican by Inside Elections with Nathan L Gonzales, despite Mr Harrison raising nearly $29m so far this cycle, roughly $2m more than Mr Graham over the course of the 2019-20. (The senator has $5m more cash on hand thanks to the head-start advantages of incumbency.)

Mr Graham has previously signalled his support for some policing reforms, endorsing a bill this summer his fellow Republican senator from the Palmetto State, Tim Scott, that was dead-on-arrival with Democrats in the chamber who panned the measure as hollow.

Mr Graham used his bully pulpit as chairman of the Judiciary Committee several times in June to highlight white privilege and the distrust between police and communities of colour after the nation was rocked by the deaths in police custody of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta, and others.

Many prominent black pastors in Mr Graham's state, which has a population that is over 30 per cent African-American, hold seminars for black teenagers after church services on how to respond when confronted by police, the senator explained at an unrelated hearing in June.

“I never remember that discussion in my church,” he said.

“The last thing I think about when a cop’s behind me is that I'm [under] threat. I wonder, ‘Did I go too fast?’ And that's the way it is,” he said.

“If you're a young African-American man in parts of this country, that's not the first thing you think about. And we just need to get to the bottom of how that happened and what can we do to fix it,” Mr Graham said.

Protests continued for a third night in Kenosha as demonstrators demanded justice and transparency from a police department that has released scant details – including officers’ names – in the wake of Mr Blake's shooting.

Two people were shot dead and another seriously wounded during the protests on Tuesday, the New York Times reported, as demonstrators clashed with armed civilians who said they were there protecting businesses from riots and looting, which has marked the demonstrations.

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers declared a state of emergency and doubled the National Guard presence on Tuesday after the violence.

When rioters lit several buildings in Kenosha on fire on Monday, Mr Evers issued a statement calling for peaceful protests.

“We cannot allow the cycle of systemic racism and injustice to continue. We also cannot continue going down this path of damage and destruction,” Mr Evers said in a statement on Tuesday.

“There remains a line between peaceful assembly and what we saw last night that put individuals, families, and businesses in danger,” he said.

Mr Evers has called for Wisconsin lawmakers to hold a special legislative session to take up a series of police reform-related measures on 31 August.

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