Wisconsin's attorney general says Jacob Blake — the Black man shot seven times in the back by a police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Sunday — was near a knife when the shooting took place, but he would not say whether Blake was carrying the knife when he was shot.
The Kenosha Police Department officer who opened fire, identified as Rusten Sheskey, a seven-year-veteran, held the shirt of Blake, 29, and opened fire as he tried to get in a vehicle, Attorney General Josh Kaul said at a news conference Wednesday. "Officer Sheskey fired the weapon into Mr. Blake's back," he said.
Officers were trying to arrest Blake and had deployed a Taser unsuccessfully when he opened the driver's side door of a vehicle and "leaned forward," Kaul said.
Investigators found the knife in the footwell of the vehicle, and Blake confirmed to investigators that he was in possession of a knife, Kaul said.
Sheskey and other officers involved in the incident are on administrative leave as the investigation by local, state and federal officials — including the FBI — continues, Kaul said.
Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley said he has asked the U.S. attorney's office to investigate, as well.
The Department of Justice confirmed Wednesday it had opened a civil rights investigation into the shooting.
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Blake was "helping to de-escalate a domestic incident" when he was confronted by officers, a lawyer for his family, Benjamin Crump, said Tuesday.
Kaul said police had responded to an incident in which a man was at the residence of a woman and was not supposed to be there. He did not say whether that man was Blake.
Blake is in a hospital in Milwaukee paralyzed from the waist down, family co-counsel Patrick Salvi said Tuesday.
Kenosha police have not given their side of the story about exactly what led up to the shooting, having said only that they were responding to a domestic incident about 5:11 p.m. Sunday.
A man who recorded the shooting on video, Raysean White, 22, said he heard police tell Blake to "drop the knife." White said he did not see Blake with a knife, and it is not clear whether he was carrying one. Kaul did not say Wednesday whether Blake was actually carrying a knife.
The attack sparked protests this week in Kenosha and beyond, including in New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta and San Diego.
During a third night of demonstrations in Kenosha on Tuesday, two people were fatally shot and a third person was injured. Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, was in custody just across the border in Illinois and faced allegations of murder in Wisconsin.
Blake's father, also named Jacob Blake, expressed doubt Tuesday that a fair investigation of his son's shooting was possible.
"I don't have the confidence in anybody that is white that is doing an investigation about a Black young man that was shot seven times in his back," he said.