BI­DEN’S TALK WITH BLAKE

Af­ter meet­ing with fam­ily, speak­ing on phone with wounded man, can­di­date says, ‘He was not go­ing to give up’

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY MITCHELL ARMENTROUT AND CLARE PROC­TOR Staff Re­porters

Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Joe Bi­den’s first or­der of busi­ness upon land­ing Thurs­day in Wis­con­sin was to speak with Ja­cob Blake by phone and to meet with the wounded man’s fam­ily in per­son.

The for­mer vice pres­i­dent said his 15-minute con­ver­sa­tion with Blake — whose shoot­ing at the bar­rel of a Kenosha po­lice of­fi­cer’s gun has spurred the na­tion’s lat­est reck­on­ing with racism and po­lice vi­o­lence — left Bi­den with one feel­ing: op­ti­mism.

“He talked about how noth­ing was go­ing to de­feat him, how whether he walked again or not, he was not go­ing to give up,” Bi­den said.

“What I came away with was the over­whelm­ing sense of re­silience and op­ti­mism that they have about the kind of re­sponse they’re get­ting here,” Bi­den said. “His mom said a prayer. She said, ‘I’m pray­ing for Ja­cob, and I’m pray­ing for the po­lice­man as well. I’m pray­ing things change.’”

Bi­den com­mented on the ex­change dur­ing a com­mu­nity meet­ing set up by his cam­paign in Kenosha, fol­low­ing his pri­vate meet­ing with Blake’s fa­ther, three sib­lings and the fam­ily’s le­gal team at Mil­wau­kee’s Mitchell In­ter­na­tional Air­port.

Join­ing by phone were Blake’s mother and Blake him­self, whose con­di­tion has im­proved enough to be re­moved from a hos­pi­tal’s in­ten­sive care unit — but he re­mains par­a­lyzed from the waist down af­ter be­ing shot re­peat­edly in the back.

Ja­cob Blake Sr., the wounded man’s fa­ther, said his fam­ily’s meet­ing with the can­di­date and his wife, Jill Bi­den, was “even more sin­cere” than a pre­vi­ous call they’d had with Bi­den and his run­ning mate, California Sen. Ka­mala Har­ris.

“It wasn’t like I was meet­ing with a pres­i­den­tial can­di­date,” the se­nior Blake said. “The em­pa­thy and sym­pa­thy. … It was in­cred­i­ble and some­thing I will cher­ish for the rest of my life.”

Ac­cord­ing to Ja­cob Blake Sr., Bi­den spoke of po­lice re­form and not de­fund­ing po­lice, but pro­vid­ing enough fund­ing to make sure of­fi­cers have adequate psy­cho­log­i­cal sup­port and train­ing. Po­lice need to stop fear­ing and killing Black peo­ple sim­ply be­cause “we don’t look like you,” the wounded man’s fa­ther said.

Ja­cob Blake Sr. asked three of Blake’s sib­lings who were also at the meet­ing — Lete­tra Wid­man, Zi­etha Blake and My­ron Jack­son — if they thought Bi­den was com­mit­ted to re­form­ing the po­lice. Their re­sponse: a re­sound­ing “yes.”

“He was bring­ing up points that we had al­ready writ­ten down, that we wanted to bring up,” Wid­man said.

Blake fam­ily at­tor­ney Ben Crump called it “a very en­gag­ing 90-minute in-per­son meet­ing.”

“Ja­cob Jr. shared about the pain he is en­dur­ing, and the vice pres­i­dent com­mis­er­ated,” Crump said in a state­ment. “It was very ob­vi­ous that Vice Pres­i­dent Bi­den cared, as he ex­tended to Ja­cob Jr. a sense of hu­man­ity, treat­ing him as a per­son wor­thy of con­sid­er­a­tion and prayer.”

Dur­ing his own visit to Kenosha on Tues­day, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump said he had planned to speak by phone with Blake’s mother, “but then I heard there were a lot of lawyers on the phone. I said, ‘I have enough lawyers in my life. I don’t need to get in­volved with that.’”

Ear­lier this week, Ja­cob Blake Jr.’s un­cle, Justin Blake, warned the Repub­li­can pres­i­dent to “keep your dis­re­spect and foul lan­guage away from our fam­ily.”

CAROLYN KASTER/AP

Joe Bi­den ex­its a build­ing af­ter meet­ing Thurs­day with rel­a­tives of Ja­cob Blake at Gen­eral Mitchell In­ter­na­tional Air­port in Mil­wau­kee.

CAROLYN KASTER/AP

Joe Bi­den re­acts Thurs­day to cheer­ing peo­ple gath­ered in Wauwatosa, Wis­con­sin, as he leaves a back­yard meet­ing with com­mu­nity mem­bers about ed­u­ca­tion.

Ja­cob Blake

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