Four groups of county sheriffs and police are asking Gov. Tony Evers and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes to stop "making statements and issuing press releases" about Sunday's Kenosha police-involved shooting incident "until the facts of the investigation are known."
The statement says that previous statements from Evers and Barnes "are premature, judgmental [and] inflammatory and only add to the anger and divisiveness of an already dangerous situation." It asks Evers and Barnes to "call for an end to these riots and a stop to the violence."
The statement was issued by the presidents of the Wisconsin Badger State Sheriff's Association, the Wisconsin Sheriff's and Deputy Sheriff's Association, the Wisconsin Chiefs of Police Association and the Wisconsin Police Executive Group.
The statement was emailed to area news media by Grant County Sheriff Nate Dreckman and Lafayette County Sheriff Reg Gill Thursday afternoon. Eight Grant County officers and three Iowa County officers were sent to Kenosha to assist Kenosha County enforcement last night.
"A continued pattern of statements and press releases based on opinion and unsubstantiated claims outs people's lives at risk," the statement said. "These are not peaceful protests. There have already been two deaths and many injuries.
"Continued remarks like those already made by each of you have also put the lives of law enforcement officers, National Guardsmen and the public at risk."
Evers said in a media statement Sunday after the shooting of Jacob Blake of Kenosha by police that Blake "is not the first Black man or person to have been shot or injured or mercilessly killed at the hands of individuals in law enforcement in our state or our country. We stand with all those who have and continue to demand justice, equity, and accountability for Black lives in our country — lives like those of George Floyd, of Breonna Taylor, Tony Robinson, Dontre Hamilton, Ernest Lacy, and Sylville Smith. And we stand against excessive use of force and immediate escalation when engaging with Black Wisconsinites."
Evers signed an executive order Monday calling for a special section of the Legislature Monday on "policing accountability and transparency."
Then on Tuesday following riots in Kenosha and Madison Monday that included more damage to the State Capitol, Evers declared a state of emergency and issued a release saying that “The ability to exercise First Amendment rights is a critically important part of our democracy and the pursuit of justice. But there remains a line between peaceful assembly and what we saw last night that put individuals, families, and businesses in danger."
Evers' Tuesday statement said that “We cannot forget the reason why these protests began, and what we have seen play out over the last two nights and many nights this year is the pain, anguish, and exhaustion of being Black in our state and country. But as I said yesterday, and as I’ll reiterate today, everyone should be able to exercise their fundamental right—whether a protester or member of the press—peacefully and safely. We cannot allow the cycle of systemic racism and injustice to continue. We also cannot continue going down this path of damage and destruction."
On Wednesday following the shooting death of two people in Kenosha, Evers issued another statement that said, "A senseless tragedy like this cannot happen again. I again ask those who choose to exercise their First Amendment rights please do so peacefully and safely, as so many did last night. I also ask the individuals who are not there to exercise those rights to please stay home and let local first responders, law enforcement, and members of the Wisconsin National Guard do their jobs.
"We must turn from violence and remember that any single act of injustice against one person is less justice for us all. We cannot let the hateful actions of a few designed to create chaos distract us from our pursuit for a more fair, equitable, and accountable state and country for Jacob Blake and the many others who deserve justice."
The state Department of Justice Wednesday reported details of Sunday's incident, including that Blake was armed with a knife, and that a Taser was "not successful" before a Kenosha officer shot Blake seven times. Police had been called to a domestic incident in which Blake's girlfriend told police that Blake wasn't supposed to be at her residence.
More in Southwest Wisconsin Newspapers next week.