Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes said Monday the police shooting of a Black man by Kenosha officers "wasn't an accident," after the man was shot seven times in the back "in front of his children."
"This wasn't bad police work," Barnes said in an address Monday. "This felt like some sort of vendetta taken out on a member of our community."
Speaking alongside Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, Barnes said "the irony isn't lost on me that Jacob Blake was actually trying to deescalate a situation in his community, but the responding officer didn't feel the need to do the same."
Blake was hospitalized in serious condition following the shooting by officers about 5 p.m. Sunday as they were responding to a “domestic incident,” the Kenosha Police Department said in a news release.
Police in Kenosha, which is in the southeastern corner of Wisconsin about 40 miles south of Milwaukee and 50 miles north of Chicago, did not provide details about what led to the shooting, but said the person was transported to a hospital in Milwaukee for treatment.
In video posted 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.
By late Sunday, multiple vehicles were set ablaze and windows were 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.
The Kenosha County Courthouse and Administration Building were closed to the public Monday "due to damage sustained during [Sunday's] civil unrest," according to a tweet from the county.
"Court hearings will not be held today, but other county services will remain available online or by phone," the tweet read.
Evers on Sunday night condemned the shooting of the man, 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 officers who were involved except to say they had been placed on administrative leave.
Evers on Monday authorized the Wisconsin National Guard to help provide support to law enforcement agencies.
“I know folks across our state will be making their voices heard in Kenosha and in communities across Wisconsin,” Evers said in a statement. “Every person should be able to express their anger and frustration by exercising their First Amendment rights and report on these calls to action without any fear of being unsafe.”
The state's Democratic governor also called for a special legislative session to consider a package of police reforms.
"More than two months ago now, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes and I announced a package of legislation to increase accountability and transparency in policing in Wisconsin," Evers said in a livestreamed address.
"This package invests in community violence interruption programs and works to address the issue of inappropriate use of force by individuals in law enforcement, prohibits dangerous police practices, builds upon the work of the Law Enforcement Standards Board and strengthens accountability measures," Evers continued, calling them "common sense policies that transcend political debate.
Barnes said "leaders at every level of government have an obligation to hear the demands for justice for those who are marching in the streets."
"You'd think after the past few months of people who are stepping up to demand justice that police departments, chiefs of police, even police unions would rush to implement some sort of reform," he said. "That hasn't happened or else you wouldn't have seen the actions that we all had to see last night. The people of our state are done waiting for their leaders and elected officials to show up."