The shooting of Jacob Blake on Sunday in Kenosha, Wisconsin, is at once freshly horrifying and achingly familiar, in the way that only a police shooting in the United States in 2020 can be.
The Kenosha shooting has the dubious distinction of being the first high-profile shooting of a Black man by police since massive Black Lives Matter protests erupted earlier this summer, bringing with them enormous—but potentially ephemeral—shifts in public opinion. So far, those protests have not brought serious changes in how American policing works, which means that for every pious declaration that Breonna Taylor and George Floyd must not have died in vain, there’s certain to be another Jacob Blake.
Yet none of this saps what happened in Kenosha of its unique horror. In a short video of the incident recorded by a witness, Blake walks around an SUV as police follow him with guns drawn, apparently yelling at him to stop. Blake opens the driver’s-side door. An officer grabs his shirt, then fires several times into his back—at least seven shots are audible in the recording. Bystanders scream and jump in horror.
A great deal remains unclear about the incident. Blake, fortunately, survived the shooting, though he is in serious condition in a Milwaukee hospital. Police in Kenosha, which sits between Milwaukee and Chicago, were reportedly called to a domestic disturbance at about 5 p.m. Bystanders told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Blake was attempting to break up a fight between two women. They also said that police tased Blake before shooting him. The veteran civil-rights attorney Benjamin Crump said that Blake’s three sons were in the car at the time.