ROCKFORD (WREX) — A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed against the City of Rockford concerning the 2018 death of Kerry Blake.
Blake was shot and killed by Rockford Police on Dec. 30, 2018.
The lawsuit says his death was a “completely avoidable tragedy caused by the unreasonable, unconstitutional and willful and wanton conduct of defendants.”
The lawsuit filed Monday details the events leading up to Blake’s death, criticizing the department’s de-escalation tactics and ability to communicate with someone suffering from a mental health crisis.
Kerry’s family says he had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and was well-known by police because of his mental illness.
“Rockford police officers documented Kerry’s mental illness and erratic behavior in police reports on at least eighteen different occasions over the course of several years,” the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit says earlier in the day on Dec. 30, 2018, police responded to Kerry’s home on Green Street for a welfare check when an anonymous caller said they saw him moving his furniture out in to the street. Officers noted his erratic behavior and refusal to discuss the matter with police. Police then left the scene.
They returned later in the day after Kerry reportedly stole a minivan that he thought was his daughter’s, the lawsuit says. He began driving and realized there were people inside the vehicle. At that point, the lawsuit says he stopped and let the passengers out, parked, and then walked back to his home.
Following the incident, police returned to Kerry’s home and saw Kerry inside his home, again documenting his “diminished mental capacity” and specifically referencing the incident from earlier in the day.
Negotiations to get Kerry out of the home began, and eventually his family arrived on scene to try and convince him to come out of the house. Those attempts failed, and police escorted the family away.
The lawsuit says as the family was being escorted, Kerry opened the front door and threw the keys for the minivan toward officers. In addition to the keys, he also tossed a samurai sword out of the front door.
“By this point, Kerry was no longer in possession of any stolen property and had demonstrated an attempt to de-escalate the situation by disarming himself.”
A part of the police presence, the lawsuit says Rockford Police deployed a SWAT team, K9 units, a ballistic armored tactical transport, and a 40-ton, 6-wheeled blast resistant former military vehicle.
The lawsuit states, “While defendant City of Rockford brought military equipment to the house, several officers on scene knew of no firearms inside the residence. No officers on scene had any evidence and/or reasonable believe that Kerry was in possession of a firearm.”
Police threw at least 12 rounds of pepper spray in to Blake’s home, something the lawsuit says escalated the situation. When Blake had no response, the family was brought back in to speak to him over a loud speaker.
Later that evening, police would attempt to enter Blake’s home. It was at that point a seareant with the Rockford Police Department shot Blake four times, killing him. The lawsuit alleges that instead of attempting life-saving actions, police handcuffed Blake. He was pronounced dead at the scene by the Rockford Fire Department.
Meanwhile, the lawsuit alleges the police officer who ultimately shot and killed Kerry used his personally owned Glock 23 firearm.
“Despite all of the information known to police concerning his history and knowing he was unarmed, Blake was executed in his own home,” said release sent on behalf of Taxman, Pollock, Murray and Bekkerman.
The lawsuit seeks compensation damages for his adult and minor children. The lawsuit was brought by his daughter, Tikeria Blake.
However, July of 2019, the Winnebago County State’s Attorney’s Office announced the use of force by Rockford Police was justified.
13 News has reached out to the City of Rockford, but we have not heard back. We will update this story as more information becomes available.