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Jacob Blake is no longer handcuffed in Wisconsin hospital, attorney says

The police union representing Kenosha officers released a statement Friday saying Blake had a knife in his hand before the shooting

Police Chief Dan Miskinis speaks at an Aug. 26 news conference to discuss the recent civil unrest surrounding the police shooting of Jacob Blake. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

An attorney for Jacob Blake, the 29-year-old Black man shot by a police officer in Kenosha, Wis., earlier this week, said Friday that his client is no longer handcuffed in the hospital while being treated for the shooting.

This detail emerged as authorities in Wisconsin offered limited new information about what happened on Sunday when a Kenosha police officer shot Blake in the back.

Kenosha Police Chief Daniel Miskinis said Friday that Blake was placed under arrest while hospitalized on a felony warrant from July for third-degree sexual assault in a domestic abuse case. Miskinis then quickly acknowledged that he did not know for sure whether that warrant had any connection to officers’ response to a call to the scene where Blake was shot Sunday.

“I believe that’s why they were there, but I don’t know specifically,” he told reporters at a news conference Friday.

He said responding officers would have “heightened awareness” due to such a warrant. Miskinis described Blake as resisting police and said that changed the dynamics of the encounter, adding: “Remember that I’m not aware of the details of this.”

Miskinis has emphasized he lacks information on the case because it is being investigated by the Wisconsin Department of Justice, describing himself Wednesday as “a chief who doesn’t have details about the incident.”

Patrick Cafferty, a defense attorney who is representing Blake in the case, declined to comment on Miskinis’s remarks, saying he did not have enough information yet to respond.

Attorneys separately representing Blake’s family did not immediately respond to questions about Miskinis’s comments, nor has that law firm, which is separate from Cafferty, responded to questions about the July warrant.

Blake was shot seven times by Rusten Sheskey, a Kenosha police officer. Blake’s relatives said the shooting left him paralyzed. His family reported Thursday that since the shooting, Blake had been handcuffed to his hospital bed, which Miskinis said was due to the outstanding warrant.

According to Wisconsin court records, an arrest warrant was issued for Blake last month on a sexual assault charge as well as on criminal trespass and disorderly conduct charges. The case was filed by the Kenosha district attorney’s office; the district attorney did not respond to questions seeking comment about the warrant.

Cafferty said the warrant was vacated as of midday Friday and the handcuffs removed, though the case remained active. He said it was vacated by the Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department; a spokesman there said he did not know if the warrant was vacated and referred questions to the district attorney’s office.

The Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office said Friday that it had aided the Kenosha sheriff’s office with Blake’s custody while he was being treated in a hospital in Milwaukee County. The Milwaukee sheriff’s office posted on Twitter that Blake posted bond for the warrant, “enabling his release from custody.”

Cafferty said the case is still ongoing and that they intend to plead not guilty and “address the merits of the case at the appropriate time.”

The Wisconsin Department of Justice said police who encountered Blake were called by a woman who said her boyfriend was there and not supposed to be. They have not said if Blake was the boyfriend in question. State investigators have also said the officers were attempting to arrest Blake but did not specify why.

The state agency also said Blake acknowledged having a knife in his possession, and said investigators found one on the floor of his car after the shooting, but have not said whether any of the officers responding saw or knew about the knife.

State authorities have not released any account from Sheskey or the other officers at the scene. Earlier on Friday, the Wisconsin Department of Justice for the first time identified two Kenosha officers — Vincent Arenas and Brittany Meronek — as the others present when Blake was shot. All three officers have been placed on administrative leave amid the investigation.

The department also said that both Sheskey and Arenas tried and failed to use Tasers to stun Blake during the encounter. Investigators had previously only said law enforcement officials used a Taser and did not specify that two officers attempted to wield theirs.

The police union representing Kenosha officers released a statement Friday saying Blake had a knife in his hand, that he ignored commands to drop it and that he “forcefully fought” with responding officers, putting one in a headlock. In the statement, which was released by Brendan P. Matthews, an attorney for the officers, the union said the state’s account so far was “riddled with incomplete information.”

“None of the officers involved wished for things to transpire the way it did,” Matthews said in the statement, adding that he hoped “truth and transparency will help begin and aid in the healing process.”

Attorneys for Blake’s family did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the union’s account. The attorneys said this week that Blake was “only intending to get his children out of a volatile situation” and that witnesses reported Blake “was not in possession of a knife and didn’t threaten officers in any way.”

A neighbor — a 23-year-old named Marie who spoke on the condition that her last name not be used — said two women were arguing, and when a police officer approached, one of them directed police to Blake, who was standing near a silver vehicle in the street. The officer then grabbed and tried to stun Blake, who walked to the front of his car, she said.

Raysean White, the neighbor who filmed the shooting, said one officer repeatedly yelled at Blake to “drop the knife” as they struggled before the shooting. White said he saw no indication of Blake holding a weapon, saying it appeared Blake was trying to break free of the officers and not fight back.

This shooting gave way to consecutive nights of damaging unrest that turned deadly on Tuesday night, when two people were killed and a third wounded in a shooting on the city’s streets.

On Thursday, officials filed a criminal complaint charging Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old from Antioch, Ill., with two homicides and attempted homicide. The complaint cites video footage as well as statements from Rittenhouse, the medical examiner and Kenosha police detectives.

Rittenhouse was arrested in Antioch, about 20 miles west of Kenosha, and held in a juvenile detention center.

At an extradition hearing on Friday, which Rittenhouse did not attend, a public defender asked for a delay so that the 17-year-old could hire a private attorney. The hearing was delayed until Sept. 25.

Attorneys for Rittenhouse released a statement Friday evening saying he was “defending himself from a relentless, vicious and potentially deadly mob attack.” In their statement, they said Rittenhouse acted in self-defense and was being used by officials “as a scapegoat to distract from the Jacob Blake shooting and the government’s abject failure to ensure basic law and order to citizens.”

Griff Witte and Julie Tate in Washington and Mark Guarino in Kenosha, Wis., contributed to this report.