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Wisconsin attorney general won't say whether Kenosha police knew Jacob Blake had a knife before shooting him

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amphotora/iStockBy MORGAN WINSOR, ABC News

(KENOSHA, Wis.) — As more details emerge surrounding the police shooting of Jacob Blake, who remains hospitalized, Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul is refusing to answer questions on whether officers knew beforehand that Blake had a knife.

“We’re not commenting on that detail at this point in the investigation. Mr. Blake stated to investigators that he had a knife in his possession and there was one that was found on the driver’s side floorboard,” Kaul told ABC News’ Cecila Vega in an interview Friday on Good Morning America.

When pressed on why he declined to elaborate, Kaul doubled down.

“This is an ongoing investigation and we are not commenting on facts that may be disputed as this case moves forward,” he said. “Ultimately, this case is going to be presented after a full and thorough investigation to a prosecutor who is going to make a charging decision. And if there is a charge or charges that are filed in this case, this is going to be tried in a court of law and it’s our top priority to make sure we’re protecting the integrity of this investigation.”

Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, was shot by police in broad daylight on Sunday in Kenosha, Wisconsin, about 40 miles south of Milwaukee. Cellphone video taken by a witness shows three police officers following Blake around his SUV, and at least one of them is seen shooting Blake multiple times in the back as he opened the driver’s side door and entered the vehicle, where his three young children were still inside.

The Wisconsin Department of Justice’s Division of Criminal Investigation, which is leading the probe into the incident, released new details in a statement Friday morning, identifying the officers involved and revealing that they tried twice using a stun gun on Blake while attempting to stop and arrest him but that those efforts failed.

According to the statement, officers from the Kenosha Police Department were dispatched to a residence Sunday, after a female caller reported that her boyfriend was there and “was not supposed to be on the premises.” After the initial attempt to arrest Blake, Officer Rusten Sheskey deployed a stun gun to stop him. When that attempt failed, Officer Vincent Arenas also deployed a stun gun but “that taser was also not successful in stopping Mr. Blake,” the statement said.

Blake then walked around his car, opened the driver’s side door and “leaned forward,” according to the statement. Sheskey, who has been with the Kenosha Police Department for seven years, fired his gun seven times into Blake’s back while holding onto his shirt, according to the statement. No other officer fired their weapon, the statement said.

Officers “immediately provided medical aid” to Blake, who was then flown to a hospital in Milwaukee, according to the statement. Blake’s family told ABC News he is currently paralyzed from the waist down but that doctors hope the paralysis is temporary.

During the investigation following the initial incident, Blake “admitted that he had a knife in his possession,” according to the statement. Investigators recovered a knife from the driver’s side floorboard of Blake’s vehicle. No additional weapons were found, according to the statement.

The officers involved in the incident have been placed on administrative leave. The Kenosha Police Department does not have body cameras, according to the statement.

The officer who deployed the second stun gun, Arenas, has been with the Kenosha Police Department since February 2019, with prior service with the United States Capitol Police. A third officer was also present at the scene, Officer Brittany Meronek, who joined the force in January, according to the statement.

Prominent civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who is one of the lawyers representing Blake’s family, said Blake was attempting to de-escalate a domestic incident when police drew their pistols and stun guns on him. He said Blake was walking away to check on his children when police shot him.

Crump told ABC News that Blake’s family is calling for the officers involved in the shooting to be terminated from the police force and charged with attempted murder.

Blake is handcuffed to his hospital bed, his father, Jacob Blake Sr., told ABC News. A warrant was issued on July 7 for Blake’s arrest on sexual assault and domestic abuse charges, yet it is unclear at this time if that is why he is handcuffed.

In an interview Friday on CNN’s New Day, Blake’s father said his son is “fighting for his life” and that he’s sedated because he is “in so much pain.”

The police shooting has sparked widespread demonstrations in Kenosha and other U.S. cities. The civil unrest in Kenosha led to cars and buildings being set on fire. Police in riot gear have deployed tear gas, flash bangs and rubber bullets to disperse the crowds. Blake’s family has repeatedly called for peaceful protests.

A man shot three people near a gas station in Kenosha late Tuesday, amid a third night of protests. Two of the victims died from their injuries while a third was taken to a hospital with “serious, but non-life-threatening injuries,” according to the Kenosha Police Department.

The violence prompted President Donald Trump and Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers to mobilize additional members of the National Guard to Kenosha.

Cellphone video from Tuesday night’s protests shows a white man, brandishing a semiautomatic rifle, running past police and being chased by demonstrators. The armed man trips and falls, and he appears to open fire on protesters. He then is seen running away.

The alleged gunman, identified as 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, surrendered to authorities in Antioch, Illinois, before dawn Wednesday, according to Antioch Interim Police Chief Geoff Guttschow. Rittenhouse was arrested based on a warrant issued by authorities in Wisconsin’s Kenosha County, charging him with first-degree intentional homicide. He’s also being held on a charge of “fugitive from justice,” for purposes of extradition to Wisconsin, Guttschow said.

Charges against Rittenhouse were officially filed in Wisconsin on Thursday, including two homicide counts and one attempted homicide count. He was also charged with two counts of recklessly endangering safety and possession of a dangerous weapon by a juvenile.

John Pierce, one of the attorneys who has been retained to represent Rittenhouse, told ABC News that they “will obtain justice for Kyle.”

Rittenhouse, who faces five felony charges, wasn’t physically present for his initial court appearance in Illinois on Friday morning, when his lawyers asked to delay a decision on whether he should be returned to Wisconsin to face charges. The judge agreed to postpone Rittenhouse’s extradition hearing to Sept. 25.

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