Racine County Eye has expanded its coverage over the past six months. You have come to count on us for stories about our coverage of COVID-19, the elections, social justice issues, business spotlights, hometown heroes, and real estate.

We spend hours making sure you have the highest and best information. If this is important to you, please subscribe today.

$
$
$

Your contribution is appreciated.

KENOSHA ⏤ State senators Bob Wirch and Van Wanggaard agree Noble Wray is the right choice for someone to review the investigation of the Jacob Blake case.

However, when it comes to their opinion of the case itself, they largely differ.

Wray hired by DA Graveley, Kaul

The state Attorney General’s office announced the former Madison police chief’s appointment Monday, Sept. 21.

In explaining the move, Josh Kaul stated that it had been done at Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley’s request. 

“At the request of DA Graveley, I have identified an independent expert who can help ensure a just outcome in this case,” Kaul said in a released statement. “Noble Wray is a longtime Wisconsin resident and a widely respected retired Madison Police Chief who has extensive experience in law enforcement, including experience at the national level as a police reform specialist for the U.S. Department of Justice.”

According to the release, Wray will “review the investigative file and provide the district attorney with an analysis of the incident.” Kaul stated that the Department of Justice would soon hand the investigative file over to Wray.

“The next phase in this case will be Chief Wray’s review of the file and preparation of his analysis,” the release states. “Chief Wray’s analysis will assist the district attorney in his review of the facts and their relationship with standard law enforcement practices as he makes a charging decision.”

Graveley did not respond to an email requesting further comment on his decision as of Wednesday evening.

$
$
$

Your contribution is appreciated.

Wirch confident in Wray’s ‘impartiality’

Sen. Bob Wirch

When reached for comment, Wirch, D-Somers, had very positive things to say about Kaul’s selection. 

“From spending time in Madison and talking with my colleagues who represent Madison, I know that Noble Wray was well respected throughout all sectors of the community,” he said in an emailed response to The Uptown Observer. “He comes from a community policing background, and he has experience investigating officer-involved shootings, and he worked on police reform issues for the Obama administration.”

Wray also chaired the state Racial Disparities Oversight Commission under Gov. Jim Doyle and also served as president of the Urban League in Madison, Wirch noted.

“I can see clearly why he was asked to assist,” he said. “He comes at this with a wealth of knowledge and experience from many different perspectives.  He gets all of the angles, and that gives me confidence in his impartiality.”

Sen. Bob Wirch

Wirch has been vocal of his support for police reform since at least the death of George Floyd earlier this year. Following the Blake shooting, Wirch released a statement critical of the shootings of Black people by police in the nation. 

“Once again, a black man has been seriously injured by police actions,” Wirch said in his statement released Aug. 24, the day after the shooting. “This time, Jacob Blake was shot seven times in the back. My prayers are with Jacob, his family and our community. This has to stop. How many of these horrific incidents will it take? Once again, anger and sadness have sent people to the streets to say, ‘Enough is enough.’ 

“In the words of the great John Lewis, ‘History has proven time and again that nonviolent, peaceful protest is the way to achieve the justice and equality that we all deserve.’ Black lives matter, and it’s long past time for systemic change.”

Wanggaard praises Wray, critical of Blake

Sen. Van Wanggaard

Wanggaard, R-Racine, has a useful perspective when it comes to police practices and procedures.

Not only did Wanggaard serve as a police officer in Racine for approximately 30 years, but he also served on Racine’s Police and Fire Commission for 10 years before serving in the state Assembly.

Like Wirch, Wanggaard stated he had heard nothing but positive things about Wray.

“My understanding, from what I’ve read so far, is that Chief Wray has a pretty good reputation for being a good officer, and he was in my view, a good leader,” Wanggaard said. ‘’You don’t make 10 years as a chief without having some leadership skills. I haven’t heard anything negative about him from his guys or from the community, you know. So I think he was pretty well rounded.

For Wanggaard, situation comes down to “the process.” 

“I’ve always been a process person, for my whole law enforcement career, most of my career, 24 of my 30 years, I was an investigator,” Wanggaard said. “And then, of course, being patrol and working night shift for quite a few years, I guess I did it all. When you do investigations, you have a regular process to that investigation.”

For him, this included taking witnesses to a crime back to the scene, so they could describe what happened from where they were standing.

“As an example, if I have a witness of something and they are recounting what happened, I like to review that interview where they were at when they said they saw what they thought they saw,” Wanggaard said. “Because if you’re there as they’re explaining it, you could actually see, could they have really have seen that.

“And a lot of times, people when you’re in the middle of something happening, because it’s happening really quick, people process information at different levels depending on what their personal preferences are, age ⏤ all those things come into account.”

Sen. Van Wanggaard

He is again emphasizing the importance of the process and clearing each step of it when thinking about Wray’s upcoming review of the Blake case.

“Anytime you get a good process in place — and this is what we try to do when we teach this, and I taught for almost 40 years in law enforcement at the tech colleges for police courses — and the process of what we do is so important. Because if you follow good process, you don’t skip things and you don’t get improper conclusions because you stepped past something.”

Wanggaard critical of Blake interaction with police

Although Wanggaard stated his support of Wray as the investigator reviewing the Blake case, his opinion of the situation is far less positive. His view of how Jacob Blake reacted to police during their Aug. 23 confrontation makes this particularly apparent.

According to the DOJ’s initial release on the shooting, police responded to the 2800 block of 40th Street Aug. 23 after a female caller reported to a dispatcher that her boyfriend was at her residence and shouldn’t be there.

It is due to this reason that Wanggaard prefers to describe Blake as “the offender,” not “the victim.”

‘The offender’

When he first heard about the Blake shooting, Wanggaard perceived it as a case of excessive force initially.

However, as he heard or saw more details, that opinion vastly changed.

“So in this situation, if you get done with that clip, the one that they’ve put up there that was the first thing that was out there with the officers’ guns drawn and pointed as they were pursuing this offender ⏤because he’s not a victim, he’s a felon,” Wanggaard said.

“He’s an offender. He’s the primary subject of the call for service. He just fought with the officers, resisted arrest. He committed a felony on officers by assaulting the officers, so all of this is being forgotten. That’s part of this process and whatever else is coming out. There will be a lot more coming out from what I understand.” 

No convictions in state

According to online court records, Jacob Blake has never been convicted of a crime in the state of Wisconsin. However, he does have an active felony case from May 3.

He currently has a pending case consisting of charges of criminal trespass to dwelling, a misdemeanor; third-degree sexual assault, a felony; and disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor. He made an initial appearance in that case on Sept. 4 from a hospital bed. 

A final pre-trial hearing will take place on those charges on Oct. 21. A trial date is set for Nov. 9.

It is unclear if he has been convicted of crimes in other states.

Still, Blake admitted, according to a DOJ release, to having a knife in his possession when the Aug. 23 confrontation with Skeskey and KPD took place.

‘25 other videos’

Wanggaard also stated that the video of the Blake shooting that has gone viral online since it hit social media Aug. 23 is far from the only one in existence of the incident.

“If you look from that perspective — and I guess there are 25 other videos out there they have that they’re also reviewing, so there might be more to show it even better. But even from what that’s showing me right there, as I see this person being pulled back a little bit, you’ll see that the offender is turning his body, he’s rotating it clockwise. 

“The officer is close in to the side of the car, and is looking over the offender’s right shoulder and is presenting what’s in front of the offender to the officer and that’s when the officer reacts … that’s when he fires his firearm.”

While the public would like a quick decision, Wanggaard stressed that no one should want an “instantaneous” conclusion.

“You want to give everybody the benefit of the doubt,” he said. “You want it to be known as far as everything that happened. 

“And you don’t want to make some positions outside of fact because that doesn’t do anybody any good.”

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Love what we do?

In addition to our education features, we’ll be kicking off a series of stories highlighting how parents, students, and educators are adapting to the impact of COVID-19 on education. If this is important to you, please consider donating to our education reporting fund. https://business.facebook.com/donate/1846323118855149/3262802717172659/

Daniel Thompson is an independent journalist and the founder of The Uptown Observer based in the Kenosha, Wis., area. He started in journalism at the Western Nebraska Observer in 2012 and, most notably,...