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3 shot, 2 of them fatally, as third night of unrest grips Kenosha

Earlier in the evening there was a standoff between Black Lives Matter demonstrators and a half-dozen counter protesters. ‘You loot, we shoot,’ one shouted.

Sheridan Road in Kenosha is seen in this photo Wednesday morning, Aug. 26, 2020,
Two were killed and one was injured on this stretch of Sheridan Road in Kenosha Tuesday night.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

KENOSHA, Wis. — Three people were shot, two of them fatally, overnight as hundreds of Black Lives Matter demonstrators clashed again with authorities and armed counter-protesters during the third night of unrest in this southeastern Wisconsin city following the weekend police shooting of Jacob Blake.

Shortly before 9 p.m. Tuesday, protesters starting throwing bottles and rocks at police stationed behind a fence erected in front of the Kenosha County Courthouse, which had been damaged in the previous nights. Flags were set on fire and some large fireworks were thrown at officers, some of whom retreated inside the building as protesters attempted to push over the fence.

“Arrest the police!” marchers shouted.

A short time later, police started firing pepper balls and tear gas back at the crowd.

After 10 p.m., after police repeatedly told protesters to disperse, a line of officers in riot gear starting pushing out from the courthouse. Protesters initially held their ground but later ran as police fired tear gas. “Medic” one woman screamed.

Some in the crowd continued to throw fireworks back and chant, “Black lives matter!”

The shooting of Blake on Sunday in Kenosha — apparently in the back while three of his children looked on — was captured on cellphone video and has since ignited new protests over racial injustice in several cities, coming just three months after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police touched off a wider reckoning on race.

Blake is paralyzed, and it would “take a miracle” for him to walk again, his family’s attorney said Tuesday, while calling for the officer who opened fire to be arrested and others involved to lose their jobs.

Unrest turns violent

Away from the center of the city, heavily armed men could be seen guarding a convenience store at 60th and Sheridan.

Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth said that three people were shot — two of them fatally — around 11:45 p.m. near 63rd Street and Sheridan Road.

Authorities are investigating whether the shooting was related to a confrontation between protesters and the group of armed men. The victims have not been identified.

Beth said one victim was shot in the head and another in the chest, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. The third victim’s wounds were not believed to life-threatening.

He said investigators had reviewed footage of what happened and he was confident a man would be arrested soon.

Beth told the Journal Sentinel that armed people had been patrolling the city’s streets in recent nights, but he did not know if the shooter was among them.

“They’re a militia,” Beth said. “They’re like a vigilante group.”

Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, who is Black, said in an interview with the news program “Democracy Now!” that the shootings were not surprising and that white militias have been ignored for too long.

“How many times across this country do you see armed gunmen, protesting, walking into state Capitols, and everybody just thinks it’s OK?” Barnes said. “People treat that like it’s some kind of normal activity that people are walking around with assault rifles.”

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.

Earlier in the evening, there was a tense standoff between the demonstrators in downtown Kenosha and a half-dozen armed men, including some dressed in military fatigues and carrying weapons.

A woman with a smaller group shouted, “You loot, we shoot!”

“This infuriates me and is an example that they would rather protect infrastructure than people’s lives,” activist Gregory Sherman said. “We are here demanding justice for Jacob Blake and everyone else ... They’d rather bring their guns to try and intimidate us.”

Activist Gregory Sherman confronts a counter protester in Kenosha Tuesday.
Manny Ramos/Sun-Times

Few police accompanied the marchers as they took to the streets earlier Tuesday evening, and none could be seen outside the newly erected fences around the courthouse.

Although Gov. Tony Evers said he planned to send 250 more Wisconsin National Guard troops to the city to protect state buildings and support first responders and firefighters, few could be seen except around the courthouse.

“The ability to exercise First Amendment rights is a critically important part of our democracy and the pursuit of justice. But there remains a line between peaceful assembly and what we saw last night that put individuals, families, and businesses in danger,” Evers said in a statement.

Eerie day

The march took place as a city curfew went into effect at 8 p.m. for the third night in a row. Officials said it would stay in place until 7 a.m.

Tuesday afternoon, Blake’s family held a press conference demanding justice for Blake, who family feared could end up paralyzed, but after his mother asked that no more looting or destruction take place in this city of 100,000.

Furniture store destroyed

Earlier Tuesday, businesses along a usually busy stretch of 60th Street near downtown were reduced to blackened rubble and firefighters were still dousing hotspots. Windows everywhere were shattered, stores looted. At Civic Center Park, across the street from the courthouse, a handful of community volunteers roamed the area picking up garbage.

There were 34 fires associated with the unrest, with 30 businesses destroyed or damaged along with an unknown number of residences, Kenosha Fire Chief Charles Leipzig told the Kenosha News.

Scott Carpenter stood outside what remained of the used furniture business his father started in the family garage 40 years ago.

“It saddens my heart. It hurts,” said Carpenter, 51.

All that remained inside the hollowed out store was the charred heating and cooling system that collapsed onto the showroom floor when the ceiling gave way.

Of the thousands of items the store carried, Carpenter said he managed to find a single undamaged one — a metal vase.

“I’m without a job, my daughter is without a job,” he said in a quiet voice. “It’s hurtful knowing the hatefulness is there and that other people are going to suffer just like us.”

A couple of doors down, at a law office, all of the windows were shattered.

“I feel like I’m in a movie,” said Jenny Eaton, who works in the office. “The probation and parole office is on fire, a man who spent all his life running a business now has nothing. I don’t know how this helps Black Lives Matter. At this point, all lives matter. Let’s get it together, America. This is doing nothing but putting us further into a recession.”

Phillip Marry owns the 92-year-old law office building where Eaton works. He pointed to some cinder blocks used to smash the building’s stained glass windows that “can’t be replaced.”

“It’s a sad day, a very sad day,” said Marry, who is a criminal defense lawyer.

He also said he understands the protesters’ frustrations. “But taking it out on business owners I don’t think is the right thing to do,” he said.

Crews install metal barricades around the Kenosha County Courthouse Tuesday morning.
Crews install metal barricades around the Kenosha County Courthouse Tuesday morning.
Stefano Esposito/Sun-Times

Thick smoke from Corrections building

In the predawn hours, the smoke along 22nd Avenue was so thick it was impossible to see anything more than half a block away except the flashing lights of fire trucks. Firefighters stepped over the rubble of buildings in silence as they poured water on remaining hot spots.

Smoke was rising from what remained of the Department of Corrections building, which was set on fire.

“All this s- - - right here is replaceable, but our lives are not replaceable,” said Wendell Coleman, a longtime resident. “The police, they harass anybody of color here.”

Regina Luckett, a former Chicagoan who has lived in Kenosha for six years, pulled over to watch as bulldozers began to clean up the DOC.

“The police system is messed up, it’s like they’re more aggressive to men and women of color,” Luckett said. “And I hate for it to come to this, but how else are they going to listen? It’s sad but it’s needed.”

Other residents surveying the scene disagreed.

“This is totally f---ing senseless, this was not done by communities of upset people, this was done by have-nothing, do-nothing chaos agents,” said one man, Paul, who declined to use his last name.

Jeannine Field, director of the Kenosha Human Development Services next door to the DOC, said the crisis prevention center had to move its residents to another facility during the unrest.

“I think everything that happened last night here in Kenosha is an incredible tragedy, but Kenosha is a strong place and we’ll pull together and we’ll get through it,” Field said.

So many fires

About 11 p.m. Monday, a mattress store at Roosevelt Road and 22nd Avenue burned uninterrupted in the city’s Uptown neighborhood for more than 20 minutes as dozens of people stood nearby and watched.

An empty fire station stood about 100 yards away, its firefighters and equipment fighting other blazes blocks away that made the sky glow red.

A wall of the two-story brick building that housed the mattress store came crashing down and sent people running to safer distances.

At the same time, a separate blaze burned a nearby Boost Mobile store and briefly caused a panic as bystanders wondered if people living in apartments above the storefront got out OK.

Spectators largely dispersed with the arrival of fire trucks, National Guard troops and police, who cordoned off the area.

“It’s ironic that Uptown, a black community, is burning,“ said Troy Williams, 30, a personal trainer who lives in the area and shook his head as he watched the flames.

“I definitely think it’s people from out of town that are setting things on fire. I don’t believe it’s Kenoshans doing it to their own city,” Williams said.

Looters had broken into the stores and set the fires, according to witnesses.

“I feel pretty terrible, honestly,” said a Kenosha man in his 20s who didn’t want his name used. “The city’s burning, you know, nobody wants to see that. There ain’t no reason for any of this.”

Contributing: The Associated Press, Jermaine Nolen

Kenosha firefighters worked early Tuesday to put out fires started during a second night of civil unrest after a Black man was wounded by police.
Kenosha firefighters worked early Tuesday to put out fires started during a second night of civil unrest after a Black man was wounded by police.
Sam Kelly/Sun-Times

Contributing: The Associated Press