Let’s start with the fact that I’m going to assume you’ve been following the case of Jacob Blake and of Kyle Rittenhouse, rather than digging out the basics.
But I’ll start with four links:
The Daily Wire, August 29: “Kenosha Police Union Offers New Details On Jacob Blake’s Alleged Actions: Attacked Police, Tried To Steal Car, Was Armed” — an account of the police account of the events leading up to the shooting of Jacob Blake, including the sexual assault complaint against him.
Second, Rod Dreher’s blog at The American Conservative, “The Rest Of The Jacob Blake Story,” which recounts many of the emerging details on both the Blake and Rittenhouse shootings.
Third, a blog I’m unfamiliar with, Bullshido, and “Anatomy of a Catastrophe; How Rampant Stupidity Killed Two People in Kenosha,” which tries to put together what happened the night that Rittenhouse shot three people. Some things I think he gets right, some wrong (he repeats the apparently-unfounded rumor that the boy’s mother was vigilante-ing alongside him, for example).
Fourth, at The Daily Caller, “‘Kyle Did Nothing Wrong’: Attorneys For Teen Kenosha Shooter Say He Acted In Self-Defense,” in which the Rittenhouse defense team, well, provides a defense.
These three links don’t serve as source citations for everything I’ll say next, because in the meantime I’ve read other articles, too, which I haven’t bookmarked.
So, one at a time:
- We know that Blake had an outstanding warrant, and that the narrative of “he was mediating in a fight” was untrue. Does that mean that those who were making that claim were honestly uninformed, or that their eyewitness narratives about the entire incident are unreliable?
- Blake had three children with the woman who had called 911 when he came to the house, who is the same woman who had accused him of sexual assault several months prior. Were these the three children who were in the car, and, if so, how did they get into the car? Blake also had three children with one (or more) other mother(s). Were these the three children? And at the time of the May criminal complaint, the girlfriend-victim said that he had taken her car keys but didn’t have his own car. Was the minivan his own car, the car going to the stolen car keys, or another car entirely?
- Did the police officer who shot Blake believe that he was about to attack him with the knife? Attack the children? Kidnap the children?
- Blake is, based on photos, a very burly man, who seemed to have easily brushed off the three police officers’ efforts to subdue him with only physical force. Those three officers consisted of two young men who, even just from their headshots, look slim, and a woman. In cop shows, cops can always outrun, and wrestle to the ground, the perpetrators. Is it a problem that this isn’t necessarily true in real life?
- And, not that it has to do with the core question of whether the police were justified in shooting, what’s the story with the so-called “Blake family pastor,” who identified himself as such, even though Jacob Blake Sr. denied having a “family pastor” and the family (or at least the father) appears to be Muslim.
These questions notwithstanding, I will briefly say that the question of whether the police had reasonable grounds for their actions must be decided in a proper venue with all available information, and that, absent this full information, making the claim that the shooting was “murder” (or similar claims) is unwarranted and inflammatory.
He was a kid who got in over his head.
If you read the “Anatomy” link, you have a certain understanding of the situation. The Daily Caller link (and other sources) provides more detail: he was not an “outsider” but a lifeguard at a Kenosha pool, he helped clean graffiti, he wanted to be helpful with his first aid kit. There are even reports of him helping protesters wash their eyes out after being pepper sprayed. But he was in way, way over his head once night came. He became separated from the group he was with, a mob chased him down, he heard gunfire and shot Rosenbaum, who was, reports say, lunging towards him to grab the gun. (Rosenbaum served a 10 year prison sentence for sexual assault, which, of course, doesn’t mean he deserves to be killed, but makes the version of events that defends Rittenhouse more credible.)
Should the cops have let a 17 year old roam the streets? There are plenty of “experts” on twitter who say that they should have taken his gun away and sent him home — but exactly how are the police, especially in the middle of that volatile situation, supposed to know that he is 17 rather than 18 years old? Likewise, he tried to surrender and they didn’t accept it — but I’d hardly call that “white privilege”; it seems far more a matter of the darkeness, the noise, the general chaos meaning that the police had no way of processing and understanding that he was a kid who had just shot people and wanted to surrender.
Should his mother have kept him at home? We have no information at all on his mother; remember, claims that she was there in Kenosha as well are rumor, with no foundation (near as I can figure, someone decided a woman who was in a photograph there matched his mother, from a Facebook picture).
But here is the piece of the Rittenhouse story that stuck out to me: he is a high school dropout. And not just that, but he hasn’t been in school since his freshman year, during which his mother “sought an order of protection” because he was being bullied and called “dumb.”
We have read repeatedly that he admired the police and spent time in a “cadet” program — and even had a “yearslong” affiliation with them. This suggests that he didn’t drop out of high school because he led a life of crime, or was a drug addict. Bullying and being called “dumb” suggests that it’s far more likely that he had a learning disability of some kind, and dropped out because he wasn’t getting support at school. In fact, I mentioned this to a friend with a family member with dyslexia, and she said that this well-intentioned, “be a hero” hopes paired with being hopelessly unable to cope with the reality sounds very much like her family member.
And the bigger issue is this: police are trained to know exactly when and how to respond. They have “rules of engagement.” Rittenhouse believed that the mere fact of carrying a gun would serve to prevent looting and destruction; he was not at all prepared to respond to someone lunging forward to take his gun. Another clip shows someone with a gun, guarding his own business, who was nonetheless not willing to actually shoot the people who were pushing him out of the way to loot and set fire to his business.
Yes, we were in Kenosha over the weekend. It’s where we keep our boat (not a big ol’ yacht — a modest sailboat). And, yes, we did take pictures. In particular, it was just a month ago that we brought our bikes up and rode down the very street that was the site of some of the worst destruction, and what was striking was that this was, indeed, the “black business district,” but many of the businesses were clearly Hispanic-run; The Good Taste Ice Cream Shoppe was, despite its name on this sign, mostly a cheap Mexican restaurant that continued to sell ice cream and kept the sign from its prior life — but next to it was a church, the Kingdom Word Global Impact Ministries, which was starting its service as we walked past, with a Black congregation entering in their Sunday Best, and which, interestingly, was the only building on the block with its windows neither destroyed nor boarded up out of precaution.
Lastly, the downtown areas was much less devastated. The car dealer on Sheridan that everyone has seen photos of is bad indeed, but the businesses on 6th Avenue, Kenosha’s “main street,” were mostly just boarded up rather than burnt-out and destroyed. So on Sunday morning, Kenoshans were out with their paintbrushes seeking to boost spirits, including, yes, scripture verses and lighthouses (because Kenosha does, in fact, have a lighthouse in its harbor).