Two people have been killed and another wounded on the streets of Kenosha, Wisconsin during a third night of unrest as dramatic video captured a gunman shooting at protesters during clashes with militia following a wave of looting.
The shootings were reported at about 11.45pm after police drove away protesters from in front of a courthouse that has been the site of the main clashes between protesters and authorities.
Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth said one victim was shot in the head and another was shot in the chest. Footage from the scene showed another man has been shot in the arm and authorities later said his injuries were not believed to be life threatening.
Panic broke out after the man was shot in the head outside an auto garage where a group of demonstrators clashed with the armed militia believed to be guarding it.
Cellphone video posted online showed a white man with a semi-automatic rifle running away in the moments after the gunshots rang out, saying ‘I’ve just killed somebody’ as a crowd chased after him.
Onlookers were filmed desperately trying to put pressure on the injured man’s head wound with a t-shirt as they yelled: ‘we’ve got to keep him alive’.
‘Put pressure, put pressure,’ one person said, while another yelled: ‘You’ve got to keep him alive.’
Separate videos that captured the other two shootings showed a group of protesters tailing the gunman as he ran down the middle of the street.
Someone in the crowd can be heard asking ‘What did he do?’ and another responds that the man had shot someone.
The videos show the man with the gun appearing to stumble and fall in the street before one pursuer took a flying kick at the gunman and another appeared to strike him with a skateboard and tried to grab his weapon.
The gunman fired three of four shots from a seated position, hitting at least two people, including one who fell over and another who stumbled away clutching his arm, according to the videos.
As the crowd scattered, the shooter stood up and continued walking down the street as police cars arrived.
The man, who still had his gun slung across him, put up his hands and walked toward the squad cars as someone yelled at police that the man just shot someone. Several police cars drove past him toward the people who had been shot.
Despite appearing to hand himself in, Sheriff David Beth later told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that shooter had not yet been identified or detained.
‘I feel very confident we´ll have him in a very short time,’ he said given what the videos showed.
Police say they are still working to identity the victims. As well as the two people killed, the third person was taken to hospital with ‘serious but non-life threatening injuries’, according to the Kenosha Police Department.
Police said they fear that the shooting stemmed from a conflict between ‘self-styled militias’ defending their properties from looting and demonstrators voicing anger at the shooting of Jacob Blake.
Blake remained in hospital after being shot multiple times by a white Kenosha officer on Sunday, prompting a wave of protests that continued despite a curfew.
Protester Devin Scott told the Chicago Tribune that he witnessed one of the shootings.
‘We were all chanting ‘Black lives matter’ at the gas station and then we heard, boom, boom, and I told my friend, that´s not fireworks,’ the 19-year-old said.
‘And then this guy with this huge gun runs by us in the middle of the street and people are yelling, ‘He shot someone! He shot someone!’ And everyone is trying to fight the guy, chasing him and then he started shooting again.’
Scott said he rushed to help the injured man, saying: ‘I was cradling him in my arms. I was trying to keep this kid alive and he wasn’t moving or nothing. He was just laying there.
‘I didn’t know what to do and then this woman starts performing CPR. There was no pulse. I don´t think he made it.’
Several civilians were carrying weapons during the protests on Tuesday night with little police presence in the city aside from the courthouse which was being guarded by the Kenosha County sheriff.
The so-called militias have had weapons slung over their shoulders or at the ready while standing guard outside businesses to protect them from looters or arsonists.
‘They’re like a vigilante group,’ Beth said, though he said he was unsure if the man at the center of the outburst was linked to such a group.
The investigation of the latest shooting is being conducted by the Kenosha Police Department with the assistance of the FBI, Beth said.
The New York Times reported police were investigating whether the Tuesday night’s shooting ‘stemmed from a conflict between self-styled militias guarding a gas station and demonstrators.’
Before the gunfire, police in riot gear fired rubber bullets, tear gas and flash-bang rounds to push back demonstrators who defied a dawn-to-dusk curfew and gathered outside a courthouse and adjacent park.
About 300 demonstrators defied the city’s 8pm curfew again after Governor Tony Evers declared a state of emergency earlier following a night of violence and destruction that saw rioters set fire to businesses and vehicles across the city.
The shooting of Blake comes three months after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis which sparked nationwide protests against police brutality and racism.
The Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department also deployed at least four armored patrol vehicles fitted with roof turrets from which deputies fired tear gas canisters into the crowd, many of whom hurled water bottles, bricks, firecrackers and other objects back at police.
But there was no immediate sign of buildings or cars being set ablaze, as happened on Monday night.
Demonstrators, some of whom were wearing helmets and equipped with makeshift protective gear, were seen trying to storm a black iron fence that had been installed earlier to protect the court from rioters.
Meanwhile, officers dressed in riot gear stood guard behind the barrier, holding up shields as protesters shouted expletives and hurled bottles at them.
Footage from the scene also showed people throwing fireworks in the direction of cops as they ignored their orders to disperse.
In one video shared by a journalist on Twitter, one man was seen trying to set fire to an American flag before being deterred by pepperballs fired by police.
Kenosha County sheriffs deputies warned crowds over loud speaker that they were participating in an unlawful gathering while urging them to leave the area.
The crowd responded by chanting ‘black lives matter’, prompting police to fire rubber bullets.
Several military-style armored patrol vehicles were also called in and were seen maneuvering around the county courthouse, firing tear gas at the crowd.
About three hours after declaring the protest an unlawful assembly, authorities had managed to push Tuesday night’s crowd out of the downtown park, with demonstrators scattering down streets.
The disturbances came hours after Governor Evers vowed to deploy additional National Guard troops in a bid to restore order in the town, while Blake’s mother publicly appealed for calm during a press conference held outside the court.
On Tuesday, President Trump, who has consistently denounced the BLM protests that have rocked the country in recent months, urged Wisconsin officials to call in the National Guard to quell the unrest, despite troops already being on the ground.
‘Governor should call in the National Guard in Wisconsin. It is ready, willing, and more than able. End problem FAST!’ Trump tweeted.
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows later revealed Governor Evers had turned down Trump’s offer for federal assistance, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
A spokeswoman for Evers told the paper: ‘The governor informed them that we would be increasing Wisconsin National Guard support in Kenosha and therefore would not need federal assistance in response to protests but would welcome additional federal support and resources for our state’s response to COVID-19.’
Protesters have begun to try to push over a fence in front of the courthouse in Kenosha. Sheriff’s deputies in riot gear have emerged from the courthouse. Some are throwing projectiles at the officers. pic.twitter.com/mkRMuUx3TK
Blake, 29, a father of six, was struck from behind at point-blank range in a hail of bullets fired on Sunday by police who were following him with guns drawn as he walked away from officers to his car and opened a door to the vehicle.
Three of his young sons inside the automobile – aged three, five and eight – witnessed their father being gunned down, according to civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who represents the Blake family.
A bystander captured the encounter in video footage that immediately went viral, unleashing outrage over the latest in a long series of instances in which police have been accused of using indiscriminate lethal force against African Americans.
Blake, who had been attempting to break up a quarrel between two women, was struck by multiple gunshots fired at him, all by one officer.
Crump also revealed Blake was undergoing surgery for his injuries, adding that the bullets severed his spinal cord and shattered his vertebrae. Another attorney said there was also severe damage to organs.
‘It’s going to take a miracle for Jacob Blake Jr to ever walk again,’ Crump said.
The legal team plans to file a civil lawsuit against the police department over the shooting.
Police have not explained why Blake was shot.
At a news conference earlier in the day, Blake’s parents expressed anguish over the shooting while decrying two previous nights of looting, vandalism and arson that overshadowed peaceful street protests.
‘They shot my son seven times, seven times, like he didn’t matter,’ Jacobv Blake Sr said tearfully as he spoke to reporters alongside other family members and lawyers.
‘But my son matters. He’s a human being and he matters.’
Blake’s mother, Julia Jackson, said the damage in Kenosha does not reflect what her family wants and that, if her son could see it, he would be ‘very unpleased.’
After a night during which protests devolved into unrest, Gov. Evers had called for calm Tuesday saying: ‘We cannot allow the cycle of systemic racism and injustice to continue.’
‘We also cannot continue going down this path of damage and destruction.’
The night before crowds destroyed dozens of buildings and set more than 30 fires in the southeastern Wisconsin city’s downtown.
On Monday, heavily armed residents were also seen standing guard outside buildings and local shops in case they were targeted by rioters.
In footage shared online, a group of men were seen carrying rifles and wearing combat gear as they protect local shops. They denied they are part of a militia.