By MORGAN WINSOR, ERIN BRADY and STEPHANIE WASH, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — Jacob Blake says he “didn’t want to be the next George Floyd,” that he “didn’t want to die.”
The 29-year-old Black father of six is speaking out for the first time since being shot seven times by a white police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin, almost five months ago. The shooting left him partially paralyzed and led to days of protests, renewing calls nationwide to end police violence against people of color.
“I was counting down my breaths and my blinks,” Blake recalled in an exclusive interview with ABC News’ Michael Strahan that aired Thursday on Good Morning America.
It was Aug. 23, 2020, and Blake was at the home of Laquisha Booker, the mother of three of his children. They were celebrating their son Israel’s eighth birthday when an argument erupted between Booker and a neighbor, according to Blake.
“I was like, I’m going. I’m going to take them to the store again, make them forget about all this,” he said. “I just wanted to get them, I wanted to leave.”
Booker called 911 as Blake was getting ready to leave with two of his sons.
“Jacob Blake is here, and he has the keys to a rental that I purchased that I need to take back, and he’s not trying to release it,” Booker can be heard telling the 911 dispatcher in an audio recording of the call.
The dispatcher sent three officers from the Kenosha Police Department to respond to the incident and alerted them that there’s a warrant for Blake’s arrest on charges of trespassing, disorderly conduct and third-degree sexual assault, stemming from an alleged domestic violence incident earlier that summer. Prosecutors later dropped the sexual assault charge, and Blake pleaded guilty to two counts of disorderly conduct and was sentences to two years of probation.
Blake said he was putting one of his children in the car when he felt someone grab his arm.
“I took — took my arm away,” he recalled. “Human reaction.”
“After I did that, I realize that it was the police and it was like, ‘Uh-oh,"” he said. “Cause when I did that … he slammed me up against the truck.”
According to an investigative report by the Kenosha County District Attorney’s Office, the police officer — identified as Rusten Sheskey — recalled approaching Blake on the street and telling him, “Let’s talk about this.” Sheskey said he then grabbed Blake’s arm to arrest him and mentioned the warrant, according to the report.
Blake, however, claimed the officers didn’t say anything to him.
A struggle ensued and Sheskey alleged that Blake reached for his waistline area, leading police to believe that he was reaching for a weapon. Sheskey deployed his Taser multiple times, but Blake pulled the prongs out of his skin, according to the report.
“At that point, I’m rattled,” Blake recalled. “I realized I had dropped my knife, had a little pocket knife. So I picked it up after I got off of him because they tased me and I fell on top of him.”
Blake always told investigators that he had a knife at the time of the incident, but it’s a detail that his lawyers initially denied based on eyewitness accounts.
Blake said he walked to the front of his vehicle toward the driver’s side door so he could put the knife in the car. He said he intended to then surrender to police.
“I shouldn’t have picked it up, only considering what was going on,” he said. “At that time, I wasn’t thinking clearly.”
Sheskey told investigators he feared Blake was going to stab him. As Blake headed for the car, Sheskey said he grabbed onto Blake’s shirt. Sheskey said Blake then turned toward him with the open knife in hand, moving toward the officer’s torso — which Blake denied.
Sheskey told investigators he fired his weapon until he saw Blake drop the knife.
“He just kept shooting, kept shooting,” Blake recalled.
A witness captured video of some of the incident on their cellphone.
Sheskey told investigators that he had given Blake numerous verbal commands to “stop resisting.” But Blake said he couldn’t hear anything.
“All I heard was screaming,” he said. ‘My ears was ringing, so it was all muffled.”
Blake said he wasn’t trying to leave or run away but that he “resisted to getting beat on.”
“And what I mean by that is not falling, not letting them put they head on my neck,” he added. “That’s all I was thinking, honestly.”
Sheskey’s attorney, Brendan Matthews, said, “the officers acted according to their training,” and that Blake was given every opportunity to comply but he chose not to.
Blake’s shooting happened less than two months after the death of George Floyd, an unarmed 46-year-old Black man who died in Minneapolis on May 25 after a white police officer was filmed kneeling on his neck as three other officers stood by. Floyd’s death sparked widespread outrage, anti-racism protests and calls for police reform across the United States and around the world.
Blake is now paralyzed from the waist down and confined to a wheelchair. He has had 36 surgeries. His mother, Julia Jackson, has organized a GoFundMe titled “Justice for Jacob Blake” to help pay for his growing medical and rehab expenses.
During a press conference last week, Kenosha County District Attorney Mike Graveley announced that no police officers will be charged in Blake’s shooting. He said Sheskey, who was placed on administrative leave, was justified in his use of force because Blake was armed with a knife, refused orders to drop it and made a motion as if he was going to stab Sheskey. Graveley said evidence showed Sheskey fired in self-defense.
Graveley noted that Blake admitted to investigators that he was armed with a knife throughout the entire encounter, and that Sheskey stopped shooting when he saw Blake was no longer a threat and then immediately started giving first aid. There were 10 bullets left in Sheskey’s gun, according to Graveley.
Blake recalled the bullets hitting him as two of his children — his “babies” — watched from the backseat of the car. When the shooting stopped, Blake said he told them, “Daddy love you no matter what.”
“I thought that was going to be the last thing I say to them,” he said. “Thank God it wasn’t.”
When his children later saw him on a FaceTime call from his hospital bed, Blake said, “they couldn’t believe I was alive.”
“I’ve explained it to them and broke it down to them,” he said, “like, ‘Daddy can die, but for some reason I didn’t that day."”
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