‘Completely horrifying’: Gov. Evers, Lt. Gov. Barnes condemn killing of 2 protesters

Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, Gov. Tony Evers
Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, Gov. Tony Evers

KENOSHA, Wis. — Gov. Tony Evers said he’s confident that Kenosha will make it through the current civil unrest that has erupted in the wake of the police shooting of Jacob Blake, but political action is still needed.

Evers, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes and Maj. Gen. Paul Knapp of the Wisconsin National Guard held a news conference Thursday afternoon at the Kenosha Emergency Operations Center to address the recent civil unrest.

“The previous protests across the state of Wisconsin are absolutely evidence that we’ve got 400 years of systemic racism in this country,” Evers said. “If we don’t do something about it, we’ll be repeating Kenosha in cities all across our country and our state.”

Since the shooting of Blake, the city has been filled with unrest. In the first two nights of unrest, multiple businesses were burned.

Tuesday night, 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse of Illinois allegedly shot three protesters, killing two of them. He was arrested Wednesday morning. Prosecutors charged him on Thursday with one count of first-degree intentional homicide; one count of first-degree reckless homicide; one count of attempted first-degree intentional homicide; two counts of first-degree reckless endangerment.

“That is something that is completely horrifying,” Barnes said.

Barnes said the Tuesday night shooting was an example of how systemic racism plays out in real time.

“They talked about finding a knife inside of the car, not even on Jacob Blake’s person, but this guy is carrying around a long gun, kills somebody, and just walking freely was able to get back home to Illinois, then we’ve got a much bigger problem on our hands,” Barnes said.

Earlier Thursday afternoon, several groups that represent law enforcement shared a letter addressed to Evers and Barnes asking them to stop making comments on the police shooting of Jacob Blake “until the facts of the investigation are known.”

Evers responded during the press conference by saying he sees nothing wrong with stating facts.

“I don’t think making a fact-based statement is improper,” Evers said.

Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul shared an update Wednesday evening on the Department of Justice’s investigation into the shooting. Kaul identified the officer who shot Blake as Officer Rusten Sheskey. Kaul said that Blake also told officials he was in possession of a knife. The knife was found on the driver’s side floor of his vehicle.

During the press conference, Evers was asked if he was concerned about a Chicago Sun Times report that Blake has been handcuffed to his hospital bed, despite Blake being paralyzed from the waist down.

“Hell yes. I would have no personal understanding why that would be necessary,” Evers said. “Certainly he’s paid a horrific price already being shot seven or eight times in the back. I can’t imagine why that’s happening.”