Kenosha DA Says Jacob Blake Had a Knife, WaPo Calls Him 'Unarmed' Anyway


The publication that put the phrase “austere religious scholar” into cultural circulation among the right has struck again.

Kenosha County, Wisconsin, District Attorney Michael Graveley announced Tuesday that no charges would be filed against Officer Rusten Sheskey, the white police officer who shot Jacob Blake during an August arrest in Kenosha. The incident set off a wave of renewed unrest both in the small Wisconsin city and across America.

In its tweet on the story, The Washington Post described Blake as “an unarmed Black man who was shot 7 times in the back.”

The original version of The Post’s story on the decision, filed Tuesday evening, claimed that “Blake, who witnesses said had been trying to break up an argument between two women, was unarmed and shot as he walked back toward his vehicle.”

“Graveley said the decision was based on a review of more than 40 hours of squad video, and more than 200 reports totaling over over 1,500 pages.”

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There’s a problem with this, inasmuch as Gravely’s report clearly stated that video footage shows Blake carrying an open knife.

As The Wall Street Journal noted, Blake — who was wanted on a felony sexual assault warrant, among other things — was actively resisting arrest and allegedly slashed at officers with the knife. Investigators found the weapon on the floorboard of the vehicle in which he was shot.

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Blake, who was paralyzed from the waist down after the Aug. 23 shooting, also admitted to investigators that he had the knife, according to the report.

“It is absolutely incontrovertible that Jacob Blake was armed with a knife,” Graveley said during the Tuesday news conference, according to The Daily Caller.

“All the discussion that he was unarmed contradicts what he himself has said to investigators.”

In fact, Graveley showed digitally enhanced portions of video of the incident in which the knife can be seen in Blake’s hand.

“He is clearly armed with a knife as he walks around and approaches the driver’s door,” Graveley said during the news conference.

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The Post’s report now mentions that Blake admits he had the knife, although the paper’s description of it gives plenty of space for the reader to question the danger posed by a knife-carrying man who had multiple warrants out on him and was actively resisting arrest during a domestic violence call.

“Investigators had previously not specified whether officers saw Blake holding a knife, saying days after the shooting that he admitted having one ‘in his possession,'” The Post reported. “They did not say at the time whether Blake was holding it or whether the officers involved saw it. Investigators said they found a knife on the driver’s side floor of the vehicle.

“According to Graveley’s report Tuesday, Blake told investigators that he dropped the knife near the vehicle and picked it up intending to put it in the car, because it was a gift he wanted to keep. In the report, Blake is quoted as saying his knife was closed and questioning: ‘Why would I pull a knife on a cop … that’s just stupid.’”

No one covering the Blake case since August, apparently save a handful of reporters, editors and social media copywriters at The Washington Post, could have come away with the impression that Blake was unarmed.

But then, what do you expect from The Post, a publication that had similar headlining and messaging issues in October 2019 when it reported the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of the Islamic State group, by foregrounding the fact he was an “austere religious scholar?”

And while The Post’s story has now been updated to reflect the fact Blake was almost certainly armed, there’s still quite a bit that’s not in there.

For instance, the words “warrant” or “sexual assault” don’t appear anywhere in the story. It briefly mentions that “Blake’s encounter with police was prompted when a woman called 911 to report him, and would be viewed as a domestic abuse case based on the call and prior contacts between Blake and the woman, who was his girlfriend.”

Compare this with The Wall Street Journal, which reported Graveley “played a 911 call of a woman who said Mr. Blake was the father of her children, and had taken her keys and was threatening to crash her rental car, something he had done before.

“’He was here just talking all types of crazy,’ the woman told a dispatcher during the 911 call.

“On their way to the scene, police reviewed information about the warrant for criminal trespass, sexual assault of the same woman by Mr. Blake and two counts of disorderly conduct. Mr. Blake later pleaded guilty to the disorderly conduct charges and the other two charges were dropped.”

Let’s also do a comparison of how The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post describe what led to Blake’s shooting.

First, The Wall Street Journal’s account:

Blake resisted multiple efforts by police to serve the warrant, including being hit multiple times with a Taser before he tried to get into his vehicle, Mr. Graveley said.

Officers and one witness said Mr. Blake twisted as he was getting into the car, and swiped at Mr. Sheskey with the knife, the prosecutor said. That’s when Mr. Sheskey decided to use his weapon. Three of the shots entered Mr. Blake’s left side and four shots entered his back, prosecutors said.

And here we have The Washington Post. Notice what it led with:

Blake, who witnesses said had been trying to break up an argument between two women, was shot as he walked back toward his vehicle. In his written report, Graveley said Blake was armed with an open knife he was holding in his right hand. The report also says video footage showed Blake carrying a knife.

That says it all: Jacob Blake, austere domestic peacemaker.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture