A black man who was shot in the back by a white police officer in the US, triggering several nights of violent protests and leaving him partially paralysed, has said in an interview that he had been prepared to surrender just before the officer opened fire.
Jacob Blake, 29, said in an interview with ABC’s Good Morning America that police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, were trying to arrest him on August 23 on an outstanding warrant when a pocketknife fell from his trousers.
He said he picked it up before heading to a vehicle to drive away with two of his children in the back.
“I’m not really worried. I’m walking away from them, so it’s not like they were going to shoot me,” he said.
Mr Blake said he was prepared to surrender once he put the knife in the vehicle.
“Throw myself to the ground and, you know, put my arms behind my back, because if they did it there and they killed me there, everybody would see it,” he said.
Officer Rusten Sheskey told investigators he feared Mr Blake was going to stab him, so he opened fire.
Blake family lawyer Ben Crump has questioned whether Mr Blake threatened Mr Sheskey with a knife, saying “nowhere does the video footage show a knife extended and aimed to establish the requisite intent”.
Kenosha erupted with violent protests for several nights after Mr Blake was shot. Hundreds were arrested, and multiple businesses were destroyed.
A Wisconsin prosecutor on January 5 declined to file charges against Mr Sheskey, concluding he could not disprove the officer’s contention that he acted in self-defence.
In the TV interview, Mr Blake, who was shot seven times, said he should not have grabbed his knife, adding he “wasn’t thinking clearly” but he could not hear officers’ orders to comply.
“I was counting down my breaths, my blinks and I was like, ‘God, I’m coming. I guess this is it for me’,” he said.
He said his thoughts turned to his sons in the back seat and he told them: “Daddy loves you no matter what.”
“I thought it was going to be the last thing I say to them,” he added.
During one night of unrest following the shooting, prosecutors say a white 17-year-old from Antioch, Illinois, shot and killed two men and wounded a third, claiming the shootings were in self-defence.
This week, prosecutors in Wisconsin asked a judge to order Kyle Rittenhouse, who now is 18 and free on 2 million dollars bond, to stay out of bars and away from white supremacist groups.
The request came a week after Rittenhouse was seen drinking at a bar in the Wisconsin city of Mount Pleasant, after he pleaded not guilty to homicide and other charges resulting from the August 25 shooting in Kenosha.
After his arraignment on January 5, Rittenhouse, his mother and several other adults went to Pudgy’s Pub, where he was seen drinking beer, according to prosecutors.
The prosecutors’ motion says Rittenhouse posed outside the bar for a photo with two men as they all gestured an “OK” sign with their hands, which has become a symbol used by white supremacists.
The motion also said five men at the bar serenaded Rittenhouse with the song Proud Of Your Boy, which has become the anthem of the Proud Boys, a white supremacist group linked with the attack on the US Capitol on January 6.