The Wisconsin Department of Justice has not said if Jacob Blake was holding a knife at any point during his interaction with Kenosha police the day an officer shot Blake multiple times in the back.
And the agency’s leader has signaled answers to that question and others will not be coming soon.
“There are certain facts that may be the subject of dispute as this case moves forward,” Attorney General Josh Kaul told the Journal Sentinel Thursday when asked about his earlier statements about a knife being found on the floorboard of Blake’s vehicle.
“We’re going to gather as much evidence as we can on them, present that information to a (district attorney) for a charging decision and if charges are brought, those facts will be determined by a jury,” Kaul said. “It’s not our role right now to resolve those but rather to gather the information we can so there is as complete a picture as possible.”
Last week, Kaul said investigators found a knife on the driver’s side floorboard of Blake’s vehicle after the shooting. He has not said if officers saw the knife, or thought they saw the knife, before the shooting. An attorney for the Kenosha police union has said Blake was holding a knife. That account has been disputed by Blake’s family and their attorneys.
The Wisconsin Department of Justice is leading the investigation into Blake’s shooting. So far, the agency has released the following account of what happened:
Kenosha police were called to a home Aug. 23 after a woman reported her boyfriend was present and not supposed to be there. Kaul has not clarified in recent interviews if Blake was the person who was not supposed to be at the residence.
At some point, officers tried to arrest Blake. Officer Rusten Sheskey used a Taser on Blake and “when that attempt failed” another officer, Vincent Arenas, also tried to use his Taser on Blake unsuccessfully, according to the state Justice Department. A third officer on the scene was identified as Brittany Meronek.
Bystander video showed all three officers had their guns drawn when Blake walked around the front of a small SUV. Blake’s family has said three of his sons were in the vehicle at the time.
As Blake opened the driver’s side door and leaned forward, Sheskey grabbed Blake’s shirt and fired his gun seven times at Blake’s back. No other officers fired their guns.
State investigators found a knife on the driver’s side floorboard of Blake’s vehicle. They did not find any other weapons. Blake was taken to Froedtert Hospital, where he continues to receive treatment. His family has said he is paralyzed from the waist down.
The Wisconsin Department of Justice announced on Tuesday investigators have spent more than 600 hours on the case, conducting 88 witness interviews, collecting 102 pieces of evidence, downloading 28 videos to review and securing four search warrants.
Much of the video is from police dash-cam footage, Kaul said Thursday. There is no body-camera footage of the shooting because Kenosha police officers are not equipped with those devices.
“As investigators, obviously, we need to review that evidence … but the number of videos obtained and reviewed doesn’t necessarily reflect the number of videos that have relevant evidence,” Kaul said.
Kaul has said the department plans to turn over its investigative materials to prosecutors within 30 days of the shooting.
“That is our goal and remains our goal, and the investigation is moving quickly so I expect that that’s going to continue and that we will be able to provide information to the (district attorney) in a timely fashion,” Kaul said Thursday.
If the prosecutor decides not to charge an officer, the department will make its reports available to the public soon after the decision. If a prosecutor files charges, then those reports likely will not be released until after legal proceedings conclude. Prosecutors fear release of such evidence during a criminal case could taint a jury pool.