Over the last week, the national spotlight has been on Kenosha, Wis. Demonstrations began there after Jacob Blake was shot in the back by Kenosha police officer Rusten Sheskey. Blake survived, but is now paralyzed. Officer Sheskey has been put on administrative leave, as is protocol, while the Wisconsin Department of Justice investigates.
Kenosha natives Chelsea Dominguez and her boyfriend, TJ Williams, started going to the protests when they began on Sunday.
“We both made the decision that we should go down there ourselves and document, we should also be videoing and getting as much as possible for people to see,” Williams explains. “So that was our number one reason for starting to go down there.”
They were among the crowd of people Tuesday night when two protesters were shot and killed and another was injured. They say up until the shooting happened, things were calm and they felt safe.
“It was a very weird scene on Tuesday,” Dominguez describes. “I was recording the whole time and, looking through my video, there were times where I even said around, you know, the armed guys like 'I feel safe. I don't feel like anything's going to happen here. There's a lot of people. This doesn't really bother me.’ "
“I mean, right before it happened, everything actually seemed fairly calm,” Williams recalls. “The crowd wasn't super loud. There wasn't that much action going on.”
Dominguez and Williams heard the first round of gunfire from up the street then witnessed the suspect, Kyle Rittenhouse, fall to the ground, grab his gun and start shooting.
“To be honest, I was still clueless at this point as to who the shooter was because we were halfway down, you know, the block and that's when he tripped over his own feet,” Williams said. “We heard the gun hit the ground, [Rittenhouse] kind of rolled over and as soon as I heard the first two shots that I believe missed someone, that's when I just took off.”
Many demonstrators in the area that night were recording what happened, including Dominguez and Williams. They say the experience hasn’t quite sunk in yet.
Editor's note: This video contains graphic content.
“I think right now we're still trying to process it," Dominguez says. “We're trying to just get the word out about what really happened, what we witnessed, and I don't think we've really started to emotionally process it yet. Neither of us have really gotten emotional but I think eventually that will probably come.”
The couple says while it feels surreal to have civil unrest gaining national attention in their home city, it isn’t necessarily surprising.
“I think it's kind of insane to be from the city that just hit international news and has sparked yet another huge line of protests,” Williams says.
The Kenosha natives hope with a spotlight on their city, people will hear their message and get behind the fight for racial justice.
“I think what has happened to our city is a tragedy. I think it's sad that buildings have been burned, people have lost their homes and businesses, I think that's extremely sad. But at the same time, we knew that this was an issue, we just didn't think it would hit this close to home. So I'm hoping that it'll just open people's eyes to see that this can happen anywhere.”