A Wisconsin police officer fatally shot a mentally ill black man Thursday after he allegedly charged police with two knives, but the family of the now deceased man say the shooting was motivated by racism.
Sheboygan police reportedly gunned down 32-year-old Kevan Ruffin, who was identified by relatives at the scene, after Ruffin charged officers with a pair of Japanese-style blades. One officer shot him after a taser proved ineffective at stopping his advance, Police Chief Christopher Domagalski told the Sheboygan Press.
Police initially responded to the scene on Thursday morning after receiving a call that a man was chasing a woman through the streets with weapons. Officers tried to coax Ruffin to end the situation peacefully, but cops were forced “to use a firearm,” according to statements from Domogalski obtained by the local outlet.
Family who showed up to the scene where Ruffin’s death was being investigated insisted he wasn’t a threat and he was killed due to his skin color, according to the Sheboygan Press.
“But because he was Black, he was considered as a threat from the beginning,” Sheriyah Appleton, who said she was Ruffin’s cousin, told the outlet.
“This stuff has been going on all around the world, this is why everyone is protesting, this is why we are upset,” Appleton said. “The color of our skin should not determine whether we are taken into custody or taken to the morgue.”
Ruffin has had previous run-ins with the law and has been arrested numerous times between 2008 and 2019. Most of his charges were reduced or dismissed due to his serious mental condition, according to court records obtained by the local outlet.
“What’s up with the system where they haven’t realized he’s going through all this?” another cousin, Shem Clayborn Jr., told the Sheboygan Press.
A protest reportedly ensued down city streets after the news of Ruffin’s death. A reporter from the local outlet documented the march on Twitter.
Heightened tensions between the black community and law enforcement follow the death of George Floyd, who died after a police officer knelt on his neck for over eight minutes, the video showed. Black Lives Matter and other groups have used Floyd’s death and others to call for sweeping police reform and funding restrictions on law enforcement.
The Wisconsin division of the ACLU has called for a “transparent investigation” in the incident, according to the Sheboygan Press.