Candidate coming to Kenosha Thursday, may meet with Blake’s family.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, said Wednesday the Kenosha police officer who shot Jacob Blake seven times in the back at point-blank range should be criminally charged. He also announced plans to visit the city on Thursday.
Biden called for charges to be brought against Rusten Sheskey, a seven-year Kenosha Police Department veteran, during a call with reporters after giving a speech in Wilmington, Delaware, on reopening schools.
“I think we should let the judicial system work its way,” Biden said. “I do think there’s a minimum and they need to be charged.”
Hours after Biden first said Sheskey should be charged, and an hour after initial publication of this story, a campaign official tempered the language in an emailed statement to UpNorthNews. The official said Biden “believes that, based on everything he has seen, charges appear warranted, but that there should be a full investigation to ensure all the facts are known first.”
Biden’s visit to Kenosha will come 11 days after the shooting of Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, set off daily protests and civil unrest. Biden’s appearance will be his first time stopping in Wisconsin on the campaign trail, something Hillary Clinton failed to do during her failed 2016 presidential run.
Biden’s campaign said he and his wife, Jill, will host a “community meeting” and “make a local stop” afterward. National reporters following the Biden campaign indicate he will meet with the Blake family. Biden and his running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris, spoke with the family last week, while President Donald Trump still has not. Trump claimed he spoke with the “family pastor,” but Blake’s father said the family does not have a pastor.
Trump visited Kenosha on Tuesday and did not once say Jacob Blake’s name. Instead, he praised law enforcement and denied there is systemic racism in policing. Trump also held a photo-op with a former owner of a current business that burned down in riots following Blake’s shooting. The business’ current owner declined to be part of Trump’s “circus.”
Gov. Tony Evers, Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian, and Kenosha County Executive Jim Kreuser, all Democrats, asked Trump to hold off on a visit to the city to allow its residents more time to heal. He came anyway.
“What we saw from Donald Trump today in Wisconsin is no different from what we’ve seen from him all along: self-centered divisiveness accompanied by zero solutions,” said Biden spokeswoman Kate Beginsfield in a Tuesday statement.
Jacob Blake’s family and BLAK, a new Kenosha activist group, hosted a block party Tuesday to counter Trump’s appearance with a show of positivity and nonviolence. At that event, Blake’s uncle, Justin Blake, said Biden and Harris had spoken by phone with Blake’s dad.
“Vice President Biden and Sister Harris had a prolonged conversation with my brother the other day. I’m sure he will make time to greet them,” Justin Blake said during a media briefing.
The President’s visit also came a day after he compared brutal police shootings to when a golfer “chokes” on a short putt in an interview with Fox News.
Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul last week identified Sheskey as the officer who shot Blake. An update into the shooting provided by the state Department of Justice Tuesday said investigators found a knife on the floor in front of the driver’s seat of Blake’s car, which he was getting into at the time of the shooting. However, it did not say whether Blake was holding the knife when Sheskey opened fire.
After Minneapolis police murdered George Floyd at the end of May, Trump signed executive orders for light police reform such as banning chokeholds in some circumstances, incentivizing local law enforcement to adhere to federal use-of-force and de-escalation standards, and establishing a federal database of officers who have been decertified or convicted of on-duty crimes.
Such minimal police reform remains elusive in Wisconsin as Republicans who control the state Legislature answered Evers’ special session call with a gavel drop in nearly empty chambers of the Assembly and Senate, the minimum action required of them. Nothing has been scheduled in terms of taking up Evers’ package of reform bills or any other ideas that may come from GOP lawmakers.
The national American Civil Liberties Union said Trump’s orders were a drop in the bucket of needed reforms and slammed the President for not once mentioning racism in announcing his orders.
Biden does not support defunding police, a common demand from activists. His official platform on justice reform calls for reducing mass incarceration, eliminating mandatory minimum sentences, and increasing access to social services and schooling for low-income communities.
This story was updated after publication with a statement from a Biden campaign official.