KENOSHA, Wis. (AP) — Two people were shot to death and another was wounded during a third night of protests in Kenosha over the police shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake, and authorities Wednesday hunted for a possible vigilante seen on cellphone video opening fire in the middle of the street with a rifle.
The gunfire was reported just before midnight, and Sheriff David Beth said one victim was shot in the head and another in the chest, the Milwaukee Journal Sentine l reported. The third victim’s wounds were not believed to life-threatening.
According to witness accounts and video footage, police apparently let the young white man responsible for some or all of the shootings walk past them with a semi-automatic rifle over his shoulder as members of the crowd were yelling for him to be arrested because he had shot people.
Beth said that investigators had reviewed footage and that he was confident a man would be arrested soon.
The sheriff told the Journal Sentinel that armed people had been patrolling the city’s streets in recent nights, but he did not know if the gunman was among them.
“They’re a militia,” Beth said. “They’re like a vigilante group.”
The FBI said it is assisting in the case.
Cellphone video of at least two of the shootings that was posted online shows a young man with a rifle jogging down the middle of a street as a crowd and some police officers follow him. Someone in the crowd can be heard asking, “What did he do?” and another person responds that the man had shot someone.
The man with the gun stumbles and falls, and as he is approached by people in the crowd, he fires three or four shots from a seated position, hitting at least two people, including one who falls over and another who stumbles away to cries of “Medic! Medic!”
A witness, Julio Rosas, 24, said that when the gunman stumbled and fell, “two people jumped onto him and there was a struggle for control of his rifle. At that point during the struggle, he just began to fire multiple rounds and that dispersed people near him.”
“The rifle was being jerked around in all directions while it was being fired,” Rosas said.
In the cellphone footage, as the crowd scatters, the gunman stands up and continues walking down the street as police cars arrive. The man puts up his hands and walks toward the squad cars, with someone in the crowd yelling at police that the man had just shot someone, but several of the cars drive past him toward the people who had been shot.
Protester Devin Scott told the Chicago Tribune that he witnessed one of the shootings.
“We were all chanting ‘Black lives matter’ at the gas station and then we heard, boom, boom, and I told my friend, `’That’s not fireworks,’” said Scott, 19. “And then this guy with this huge gun runs by us in the middle of the street and people are yelling, ‘He shot someone! He shot someone!’ And everyone is trying to fight the guy, chasing him and then he started shooting again.”
Scott said he cradled a lifeless victim in his arms, and a woman started performing CPR, but “I don’t think he made it.”
At a news conference earlier Tuesday, Ben Crump, the lawyer for Blake’s family, said that Blake was shot multiple times by police on Sunday and that it would “take a miracle” for him to walk again. He called for the officer who opened fire to be arrested and for the others involved to lose their jobs.
The shooting of Blake — apparently while three of his children looked on — was captured on cellphone video and ignited new protests in the U.S. three months after the death of George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer touched off a nationwide reckoning over racial injustice.
Kenosha police have said little about what happened other than that they were responding to a domestic dispute. They have not said why the officers opened fire or whether Blake was armed, and they have not disclosed the race of three officers on the scene.
The 29-year-old Blake underwent surgery Tuesday, according to Crump, who added that the bullets severed his spinal cord and shattered his vertebrae. Another attorney said there was also severe damage to organs.
Blake’s father, also named Jacob Blake, told the Chicago Sun-Times that his son had eight holes in his body. At a news conference, he said police shot his son “seven times, seven times, like he didn’t matter.”
“But my son matters. He’s a human being and he matters,” he said.
Blake’s mother, Julia Jackson, told CBS “This Morning” in an interview that aired Wednesday that she feels as if she is in a “bad dream” and that it felt “unreal” that her son’s name has been added to the list of Black people who were shot by police.
“Never in a million years did I think we would be here in this place. Him being alive is just a miracle in itself,” she said.
During the latest round of unrest on Tuesday, police fired tear gas for the third straight night to disperse protesters who had gathered outside Kenosha’s courthouse, where some shook a protective fence and threw water bottles and fireworks at officers lined up behind it. On Monday night, crowds destroyed dozens of buildings and set more than 30 fires downtown.
On Tuesday, before the two deadly shootings, Kenosha County Board sent a letter to Democratic Gov. Tony Evers requesting that at least 2,000 more National Guard troops be sent. Evers initially dispatched 150 troops on Monday and increased that to 250 on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the board sent a second request, for 1,500 troops.
“Our county is under attack. Our businesses are under attack. Our homes are under attack. Our local law enforcement agencies need additional support to help bring civility back to our community,” board leaders wrote.
Evers did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
Republican Sen. Ron Johnson and GOP Rep. Bryan Steil, whose district includes Kenosha, said Evers should accept federal troops from President Donald Trump.
Anger over the shooting has spilled into the streets of other cities, including Los Angeles and Minneapolis, the epicenter of the Black Lives Matter movement this summer following Floyd’s death.
Bauer reported from Madison, Wisconsin. Associated Press reporters Todd Richmond in Madison, Wisconsin, Gretchen Ehlke in Milwaukee, Jeff Baenen in Minneapolis, Aaron Morrison in New York, and Tammy Webber in Fenton, Michigan, contributed.