Jacob Agonistes; or, the Wounded Martyr

About five years ago in Racine, Wisconsin, a 24-year-old black man named Jacob Blake and a couple of female companions were among the patrons of the Brass Monkey tavern. An inebriated Blake got into an argument with another patron and pulled a gun on him. The dramatic confrontation was unceremoniously punctuated, however, by the gun’s magazine dropping out of the weapon and clattering to the floor. Blake was ordered out of the establishment, but as he was leaving, he pointed the gun through the window at other patrons. As could be expected, someone called the police.

When the police managed to corral Blake after a “high risk traffic stop,” he exited the vehicle and began walking toward them, ignoring their commands to get down on the ground. They ended up having to turn a K9 loose on him to finally get him under control. The charges he racked up for his misadventures included one felony count of resisting arrest causing a soft tissue injury to a police officer, and one misdemeanor count each of carrying a concealed weapon, carrying a firearm while intoxicated, endangering safety—use of a dangerous weapon, and disorderly conduct. For whatever reason, the charges were never pursued, and Blake ended up getting off scot-free.

You would think that a young man would have learned some kind of lesson here about breaking the law and resisting arrest, that he would have appreciated his serendipitous reprieve, and that he would have resolved not to screw up again. Alas, it was not to be. The War on Cops: How t... Mac Donald, Heather Best Price: $16.73 Buy New $16.61 (as of 05:30 EDT - Details)

Early on the morning of May 3 of this year in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Blake entered the residence of his girlfriend and confronted her as she lay in bed sleeping. He digitally penetrated her, then sniffed his finger and said, “Smells like you’ve been with other men.” After taking her debit card and the keys to her vehicle, he drove off in that vehicle and then made a thousand dollars’ worth of fraudulent withdrawals with the debit card. The girlfriend called the police, and a warrant was eventually issued for his arrest on three counts: criminal trespass, domestic abuse; third degree sexual assault, domestic abuse; and disorderly conduct, domestic abuse.

On August 23 of this year, Kenosha police dispatch received a call from the same woman advising that her boyfriend was back on the premises when he shouldn’t be and that he was once again attempting to take her keys and her vehicle. The dispatcher also communicated to the responding officers that there was a “wanted” alert for someone associated with the address of the complainant, that someone just happening to be Jacob Blake.

Shortly after arriving at the complainant’s address, the police engaged Blake and attempted to place him under arrest. It turned out that Blake was also armed with a knife, although it is not clear whether he brandished it or simply had it on his person. Blake physically resisted the police, at one point even putting one officer in a headlock. Two officers attempted to tase Blake but to no avail. Blake then broke away from the officers. The tail end of this part of the struggle was captured on cell phone video in Blair Witch shaky cam fashion, showing Blake either kneeling or crouching on the passenger side of a vehicle surrounded by three police officers. Blake then gets to his feet and strides toward the front of the vehicle, police following with guns drawn. Killer High: A History... Andreas, Peter Best Price: $19.48 Buy New $19.49 (as of 05:30 EDT - Details)

A better quality cell phone video picked up the action from the driver side of the vehicle. It shows Blake walking around the front of the vehicle to the driver side door and opening the door, officers in tow with guns drawn. One officer attempts to shove Blake away from the door but to no avail. That same officer then scrambles around behind Blake, grabs the fabric of Blake’s wife beater shirt with his free hand, and attempts to pull Blake back. Blake strains to lean forward into the vehicle as if reaching for something. The same officer, maintaining the tension of his grasp on Blake’s garment, fires seven shots and then pauses; the next sound heard is that of the vehicle’s horn as Blake—having gone limp—slumps against the steering column. Blake survived but is currently paralyzed from the waist down.

“But why did he have to shoot him and why did he shoot him so many times?” are the questions most asked about the incident. Well, many officers have been shot by suspects who didn’t want to be arrested and who reached for a weapon to shoot the officer. Blake had an active warrant out on him, he resisted arrest, and he reached into a vehicle. Any officer would have reason to believe that Blake was the kind of wild idiot who might be reaching for a weapon with which to do them in.

Fentanyl, Inc.: How Ro... Westhoff, Ben Buy New $13.50 (as of 05:32 EDT - Details) As to why he was shot so many times: Officers are trained to shoot until the threat is stopped. There have been instances where a suspect in a gunfight with the police has been shot through the heart but had enough oxygenated blood in his system to continue firing at the police before he finally dropped dead. As long as he was still firing, he was still considered a threat, and the police were justified in continuing to put holes in him. Same here. As long as Blake was continuing to reach into the vehicle, he was still considered a threat, and the officer was justified in continuing to fire. When Blake finally went limp, the threat was over and the officer stopped firing.

In spite of the totally justified nature of this shooting, riots broke out in Kenosha doing millions of dollars in damage. According to the last published census data, Kenosha has a black population of approximately 10 percent. Here’s a question for the Kenosha Police Department: What percentage of murders, rapes, robberies, and assaults were committed in the city by black people in the last decade? Is it about 10 percent, or is it significantly more than 10 percent? With percentages adjusted accordingly, I pose the same question to the police departments of other cities that have also experienced rioting and looting. If a particular group is committing a significantly disproportionately higher percentage of crimes, is defunding the police a good idea?